NEWARK, NJ -- Rutgers University–Newark announced today that it joined a collaborative grant project with other universities to raise awareness of racial issues and injustice. 

Invited by the University of Michigan Center on Social Solutions, Rutgers partnered with the grant-funded project sponsored by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. As part of the foundation’s initiative, the center is creating “Crafting Democratic Futures: Situating Colleges and Universities in Community-Based Reparations Solutions,” a partnership with nine colleges and universities located in cities spanning various regions of the US. 

Through this project, officials said that participating colleges and universities in each city will collaborate with community partners in a public history reckoning designed to yield tangible, community-based racial reparations solutions that reflect the specific histories and contemporary circumstances of each community.

For its part of the three-year project, officials said Rutgers-Newark will work with the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice (NJISJ) and Newark Community Development Network (NCDN) to engage the city in raising awareness. 

“The process will be founded on the understanding that today’s Newark was built on centuries of oppression that continues to constrain opportunity for Newarkers, even as the city’s vibrant tradition of community activism and innovation fuel the city’s ascendancy,” officials said. 

With the decision from the Newark school to join this project, Mayor Ras J. Baraka highlighted various efforts the city has made to address the issue of racial inequality in the community and what this partnership could bring to the area. 

“In Newark, we have been methodically working to level the playing field by dismantling core elements of persistent racial oppression,” Baraka said in a statement. “Among many other initiatives, we introduced an inclusive zoning ordinance, created a Commission on Equitable Growth, established priorities to invest in small business development and local real estate developers, and sought commitments from Newark’s largest employers to hire more Newarkers, increase purchasing of Newark-based goods and services, and encourage more of their employees to live in Newark. 

“Initiating a community-based discussion about reparations is an important next step, recognizing how essential it is that visions for truly achieving equity must come from our community,” Baraka added. 

As part of this initiative, officials noted that the school's faculty members and students will work with designated Community Fellows from both NJISJ and NCDN.

Ryan Haygood, President and CEO at NJISJ, who will serve as its Community Fellow, said he sees this project as “a natural extension of the civil rights organization’s work” and noted that the city has a prevalent history of racial inequality. 

“The public health and economic crises we are currently experiencing have exposed the cracks of structural racism deeply embedded in our foundation—generations upon generations of cracks that have erupted into earthquakes in communities of color in New Jersey,” Haygood said. “It is time we finally repair these cracks and build reparative systems that create wealth, justice, and power—from the ground up—for Black, Latinx, and other people of color in the Garden State.”