"Have you been to New Jersey?" I ask politely. "Oh yeah," they'll say, "I fly into Newark all the time." Now, first of all, New Jersey does not mostly look like the Newark airport. It doesn't even look mostly like the city of Newark, which itself looks nothing like the airport. There are plenty of urban spaces in New Jersey, but I took this picture of New Jersey while camping in a pine forest, so there's that.
Somebody sent him this picture of Newark--apparently the person wasn't willing to go as far as leaving the car to take the picture. You might note in the rear view mirror the trees and nicer housing, as well as the impatient Newark drivers wondering why this person stopped to take pictures.
But i like New Jersey. And not only do I like New Jersey for the pretty country in the Pine Barrens, but I like Newark. I like Newark a lot, and let me tell you why: Newark is home to some amazingly creative talent. If you're wrinkling your nose at Newark, it's because you don't know Newark and the people in it.
1) Larry Lyons and Brick City Varsity. Gifted writer, scholar, and photographer, Larry Lyons is the spirit of new beginnings in Newark. He takes old secondhand clothes, furniture, whatever and puts them together with the people they were meant for. Then he takes pictures that make you wish you were there. The host of literary salons and wild tea parties, Larry has a talent for surfacing beauty. Go like Brick City Varsity on facebook so you know when the next event is and browse the pictures. They'll make you smile.
2) Dr. Cheryl Clark, wearing many hats at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. She is a scholar, poet, activist, speaker, and community leader. I heard her read at a Pride event once and was delighted to meet her at another community event. Her passion for people--and the people of Newark in particular shines through. You can find some of her writing here: The Days of Good Looks.
3) Omie Trouvere, the Bard of Brick City. Silky, smooth voice like an angel. I got to hear him sing in person at one of Larry's salons. He's at work recording some new stuff--I saw it on facebook. Cannot wait! As he says on his facebook, "Let me tell you a story." Please do, Omie, please do.
4) The Sadie Nash Leadership Project, which started in New York and has now expanded to Newark. I met a few of the women involved in the program a while back, and they are terrific! From their mission statement: "The program is designed to strengthen, empower, and equip young women as agents for change in their lives and in the world. By increasing the participation of women in social, political, and economic decision-making, SNLP seeks to question and redefine the nature of leadership and to promote perspectives and practices that are cooperative, accountable, ethical, and effective." Do you got that where you are for young women? Newark does.
5) Chris Brown at Porcelain Beauty. An esthetician and makeup artist, I saw him speak to a roomful of men about skin care, and he had them eating out of his hands. He knows his stuff about skin, makeup, how the weather and diet affects your skin, and on and on. Go like his facebook page so he'll get more stuff on the web. And then make an appointment with him to talk about your skin care. He knows what he's doing.
6) A little to the south is the Rev. Tamara Peace. She writes and speaks and preaches about women and intimate violence, healthy sexuality, and healthy spirituality. She is a poet, a liturgical dancer, an activist, and my heart sister. It is a joy to know her, to work in this world together towards healing and wholeness.
7) Newark is home to
So whatever with your wrinkled nose. You're just wrong about Jersey.