Government

Former city employee alleges she was sexually assaulted by mayor's older brother

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Former City of Newark employee Dannisha Clyburn alleges that she was sexually assaulted by Obalaji Baraka, brother of Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, in 2013. Credits: Dannisha Clyburn
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A former City of Newark employee has come forward with allegations of sexual assault against Obalaji Baraka, the older brother of Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.

Dannisha Clyburn, 38—known by many as Queen Hatari—claimed in an exclusive TAPinto Newark interview that she was touched inappropriately and without her consent by Obalaji Baraka in 2013. She claims he attempted to assault her again in 2015.

The allegations come on the heels of a December 9 Facebook video posted by Clyburn in which she addresses members of the Baraka administration, his family members and allies.

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Clyburn, a Newark native, said on the video she was speaking for women and girls in the city who were afraid to speak out about what she called a pattern of inappropriate behavior.

“There are some other girls that are afraid,” Clyburn said in the Dec. 9 video. 

Later in the video, Clyburn addressed Newark Mayor Ras Baraka directly.

“Your brother Obalaji, he’s a whole other monster,” Clyburn said, referring to the mayor’s older brother Obalaji Baraka, who works in the city’s recreation department.

“Your brother, you better get him out of here," Clyburn said. "He is a predator. He is a menace to our city. And if you know, you taught us best. If you see something, you say something. I learned that from you, Ras Baraka. So I’ve seen something, I heard something and I’m saying something. I’m speaking for every person, every female, every male that can’t come forward and are afraid to come forward."

Frank Baraff, a spokesman for the city, did not respond to an email this afternoon. An attempt was made to contact Obablji Baraka through Facebook, but he did not respond.

Clyburn, who considered herself a close ally of Ras Baraka, said she campaigned heavily for him during his mayoral run in 2014 and was given a job in the city’s Health Department.

“I was a die-hard supporter of Ras Baraka,” Clyburn said. “I pulled down Shavar Jeffries posters. I was very loyal to these people.”

Clyburn alleges it was while she was volunteering as a security guard at then-Councilman Baraka's State of the South Ward address on Feb. 27, 2013 at Chancellor Avenue School that the first incident of sexual abuse occurred.

Clyburn alleged that during the event she was summoned into a dark room by Obalaji Baraka.

“He said, ‘I need you to do something for me',” Clyburn said, thinking she was needed to assist with something related to the event. “He pulls me into a room and says, ‘Come here,’ and he took his hand, digs in my pants and then licked his fingers. I was shocked.”

Clyburn alleges Obalaji Baraka attempted to assault her again in 2015 while she was attending a children's event at the JFK Recreation Center on W. Kinney Street. She alleges Obalaji Baraka called her away from the children she was with into a room for help. At the time, she was employed in the city's Health Department. She said she never told anyone about the incident because she was too scared to come forward.

The allegations come amid a growing movement of women who are coming forward to break their silence about sexual abuse at the hands of powerful men. 

Fox CEO Roger Ailes, television journalist Bill O'Reilly, Alabama senatorial candidate Ray Moore, U.S. Senator Al Franken and MSNBC "Today" host Matt Lauer are just some of the men who have been accused of sexual assault and predatory behavior.

Last week, Time magazine named the "Silence Breakers" as its 2017 Person of the Year in recognition of the many women who have come forward to report sexual abuse and harassment as part of an ever-growing #MeToo movement.

Since her video post last week, Clyburn claims she has received threats from Baraka supporters and allies on social media.

She also said that Baraka allies have been showing up regularly at the McDonald’s she manages, alleging that these visits are a form of intimidation.

Clyburn said she has received threats due to her association with Central Ward Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins, whom she met in 2015.

Chaneyfield Jenkins, at a December 4 pre-council meeting, addressed what she called an abuse of power by those in the Baraka administration.

“I’m not on Team Baraka for a number of reasons, but one of the reasons is their abuse of power,” Chaneyfield Jenkins said from the dais. “I cannot believe that any of my council colleagues... that none of these women haven’t come up to you and told you what they’ve had to go through as far as having to have sex to get a job or they’ve been abused or they've been talked about or they've been ridiculed.”

Chaneyfield Jenkins also said she has received threatening text messages from those aligned with the Baraka administration and reported them to the police department but that no action has yet been taken.

“I am putting the people of the City of Newark on notice,” Chaneyfield Jenkins said. “If any harm comes to my husband or I, I want you all to understand that I’ve put it on record officially today.”

Clyburn alleges that she has been offered her old job back at the city’s Health Department—the same job she was fired from twice for speaking out against what she refers to as unethical behavior she witnessed by some of her health department colleagues. She worked for the city from 2014 to 2016.

Although Clyburn said she is being bullied and harassed online and on the streets, she said she needs to speak out for those too afraid to come forward.

“I’m a mom, I’m a daughter, I don’t want to see other women and girls go through this,” she said.

Clyburn considers herself a part of the “hidden figures"—the face of what she said are far too many African-American women too afraid to report sexual abuse in the community.

“While the news has reported many high-profile people and celebrities coming forward lately to report their own experiences with sexual harassment and abuse, most of them do not represent the black and brown community,” she said. “There is a pervasive fear in our community. Sometimes you take your life in your hands if you come forward."

Clyburn is outspoken about her past—she spent time in prison—and said she has spent years turning her life around. She remains a member of a gang, though she calls herself a progressive gang member who wants to positively impact the city she loves.

Clyburn said she is proud of her advocacy work for the city's homeless population and has helped close to 500 people find jobs and secure I.D.'s. She is a familiar face at Newark’s Penn Station, where she visits regularly with the hundreds who call the busy train station home and volunteers at homeless shelters, warming centers and anywhere she sees a need.

She is also committed to speaking out on behalf of women and girls everywhere.

"I stand for my people and I love my city," Clyburn said. "My city is crying out for help, the victims of this abuse are crying out for help. The truth will be revealed. I'm not going anywhere until this is fixed. I won't be quiet anymore."

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