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Old 08-06-2007, 03:50 AM   #1
J. Sharpe James, J.D.
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Angry Booker continually reinforces negative perceptions of Newark.

For Booker, often-told tales turn into trouble
Mayor's Newark stories disparage city, critics say
Monday, August 06, 2007
BY JEFFERY C. MAYS AND KATIE WANG
Star-Ledger Staff
When Newark Mayor Cory Booker speaks to groups outside of the city, he often relates stories about those he encounters in it.

There's Virginia Jones, his tough-as-nails mentor, who he says taught him more than he learned at Oxford and Yale combined. There's Wazn Miller, the dying teen he cradled in his arms. And there's T-Bone, the drug dealer who threatened his life a decade ago.

Judith Diggs, an education and housing advocate in Newark, is another of those characters. During a May fundraiser in Summit, the mayor spoke affectionately about the deceased woman, but also described her as "portly" with missing teeth and as a woman who "cussed" a lot and took a $100 bribe from Sharpe James.

Booker's description of Diggs made its way to YouTube and got him into trouble last week when her friends complained.

While Booker apologized the next day, critics say the brush with Diggs' friends and family is another example of him taking liberties with his accounts to outsiders about Newark and its residents. These "stories," in the view of some, can reinforce negative stereotypes.

"I think the mayor is using stereotypes that register with the stereotypes of some of the people be yond Newark," said the Rev. William Howard, a Newark pastor whom Booker considers a mentor. "It is very unfortunate. On the other hand, ironically as he spoke of this dear lady, he was speaking of her as a heroine of his. I think he's beginning to understand he can't do these stereotypes without there being this kind of public uproar about what he says."

Councilman Anibal Ramos said Booker's comments hurt his stated mission to improve the city, and added it wasn't "necessary to por tray a demeaning image of the city because it sends a bad message."

And Central Ward Councilwoman Dana Rone, a Booker supporter, said the mayor would be better off focusing on the "many good stories in Newark," because "you need to get some of those sto ries out in order to get the help we need."

Booker, who declined to be interviewed for this story, is an accomplished orator in high demand as a speaker.

During a February speech at the New School in Manhattan, Booker described his early days in Newark, living near a crack house called "Happy House." It was there he looked out his window and saw drug addicts "strapping on surgical tubing and sticking IV drugs into their arms" sometimes with their "kids standing next to them waiting (for them) to get their morning fixes."

Another story the mayor tells often is that of Miller, a young man Booker came upon after he was shot and lay fatally wounded in April 2004.


T-BONE: MAN OR MYTH?

The story of T-Bone, who the mayor says threatened his life when he first came to Newark 10 years ago, is one Booker concedes telling a "million" times.

"I said hello to this guy and I'll never forget he leaped off the steps where he was standing and looked at me and threatened my life. He said: 'I don't know who you are, I don't know where you come from but if you ever so much as eyeball me again I'm going to bust a cap in your ...' let's call it my posterior region," Booker said to laughter dur ing the New School speech.

"I later got to know this guy and his name was T-Bone and I'm a vegetarian so that was a particularly vicious threat."

At the New School, he told of how T-Bone later came to him when he had warrants out for his arrest and sobbed for help.

Booker also told the T-Bone story at the William Paterson University commencement in May and as a panelist at the New Yorker festival, also in May, where he was interviewed by the magazine's editor, David Remnick, about his experiences in Newark as mayor.

City union leader Rahaman Muhammad, who has clashed often with Booker, says the T-Bone story doesn't ring true.

"T-Bone is in the movies," Muhammad said. "That's what white people think a drug dealer in Newark would be named. T-Bone is not existent. It's a figment of his imagination."

In previous interviews, Booker insisted T-Bone was both a real person and an "archetype," or a metaphor for the failure of democracy, parenting and life in the inner city.

"He is an archetype of so many people that are out there. He is 1,000 percent a real person," Booker said in June.

Booker said focusing on whether T-Bone was real would be missing the point of the story.

"The point of the story is we live in a society today (where) we are 40 years from the civil rights movement but we have a lot of work to do. There are young men who have genius inside of them ... so much of this talent is getting wasted through violent crime."


THE OUTSIDER

David Bositis, a senior political analyst for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a nonprofit public policy group in Washington, D.C., said Booker's stories can counter the criticism that he is an outsider who, because of his privileged upbringing in a wealthy Bergen County suburb, can't relate to everyday life in Newark.

It's a strategy former mayor James used effectively against Booker during his first run for mayor when he said Booker needed to "learn to be an African- American."

"These stories he tells are his antidote to that privileged background," said Bositis, who has closely followed the mayor's rise in the political world.

The comments and backlash underscore Booker's uneasy rela tionship with some blacks in Newark who view Booker suspiciously and doubt his sincerity. It did not help matters when in October he told executives at a meeting of the Newark Regional Business Partnership: "I'm tired of racial politics ... leaders wrapping themselves in kente cloth."

In a recent New York Times article, Booker was quoted calling his political opponents "dark angels," before an audience in his hometown of Harrington Park.

For some, the words have a profound effect.

Elana Kay, 35, heard Booker speak at the New Yorker festival and she said he was very sincere and wants to do good for Newark. Kay, who is white, also said Newark's reputation to her has always been one that was crime-ridden and racially segregated.

"He reinforced that impression," she said.
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Old 08-06-2007, 08:51 AM   #2
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Default Somebody help me out.....

Quote:
Originally Posted by John James
"T-Bone is in the movies," Muhammad said. "That's what white people think a drug dealer in Newark would be named. T-Bone is not existent. It's a figment of his imagination."
Wasn't T-Bone the gang character in the movie Colors played by Daman Wayans?
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Old 08-06-2007, 09:05 AM   #3
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Default Booker made up T-Bone

Quote:
Originally Posted by ProSouth
Wasn't T-Bone the gang character in the movie Colors played by Daman Wayans?
You've got a great memory, Pro. Daman Wayans played the character T-Bone in "Colors." Too bad for Booker. I always suspected that his T-Bone character was made up:

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Old 08-06-2007, 09:15 AM   #4
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John, I can remember a big discussion on this site about some postings that created a negative view of Newark to outsiders. Where is the indignation from the Bookrites now? I guess THE GOLDEN BOY WONDER gets a pass.
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Old 08-06-2007, 09:20 AM   #5
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Default Negative Perceptions?

The guy made a mistake. He apologized. Move on. Negative perceptions? Here's one:

Do you want THIS back??
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Old 08-06-2007, 10:21 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by LastCubanStanding
The guy made a mistake. He apologized. Move on. Negative perceptions? Here's one: Do you want THIS back??
Sharpe James is no longer the Mayor of Newark. I think that Booker being called on his fabrications and anecdotal lies about his "boyz in the hood" life in Newark can be a redeeming experience for him. It can help him grow into the man and leader that we know he can be. It can even inspire him to celebrate what's good about Newark. I'm sure Booker's suburban fan clubs would love to hear that too. The only thing wrong with making a mistake is not learning from it. Booker's got to get back in saddle, refocus on Newark issues and put T-Bone to rest.
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Old 08-06-2007, 10:34 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ProSouth
Wasn't T-Bone the gang character in the movie Colors played by Daman Wayans?

Pro that's exactly where he got that name ffrom it's a name white liberals would be familiar with specially those involved in making movies and when a lot of your money is coming from entertainers and producers it is always good to speak a name they know.
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Old 08-06-2007, 01:26 PM   #8
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Default "Happy House?"

Unfortunately for Booker, all the rest of his tall tales are now suspect. In fact, Booker reminds me of a child who lies to get attention. The more attention he gets, the bigger the lies, the longer his nose grows. The parent knows the child is telling a whopper and often has to pinch themself to keep from laughing.

<<During a February speech at the New School in Manhattan, Booker described his early days in Newark, living near a crack house called "Happy House." It was there he looked out his window and saw drug addicts "strapping on surgical tubing and sticking IV drugs into their arms" sometimes with their "kids standing next to them waiting (for them) to get their morning fixes.">>
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Old 08-06-2007, 01:29 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Miss Tam-Tam
Unfortunately for Booker, all the rest of his tall tales are now suspect. In fact, Booker reminds me of a child who lies to get attention. The more attention he gets, the bigger the lies, the longer his nose grows. The parent knows the child is telling a whopper and often has to pinch themself to keep from laughing.

<<During a February speech at the New School in Manhattan, Booker described his early days in Newark, living near a crack house called "Happy House." It was there he looked out his window and saw drug addicts "strapping on surgical tubing and sticking IV drugs into their arms" sometimes with their "kids standing next to them waiting (for them) to get their morning fixes.">>
So there are no crack houses in Newark?
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Old 08-06-2007, 02:55 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by LastCubanStanding
So there are no crack houses in Newark?
I'm sorry. I was under the mistaken impression that, as Mayor of Newark, part of Booker's task is to raise the city up, not drag it down with exaggerated horror stories. You don't see Mayor Bloomberg doing this do you?

Councilman Ramos put it eloquently:

<<Councilman Anibal Ramos said Booker's comments hurt his stated mission to improve the city, and added it wasn't "necessary to portray a demeaning image of the city because it sends a bad message."

There are enough people who go around trashing Newark. A nj.com poster wrote in a thread about the killings that they wished Booker lots of luck getting folks to come down to the Arena/hellhole of Newark.

Do we need Booker backing that sentiment up with his "Happy House" horror stories?
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