NEWARK, NJ — Prince Street in Newark is now home to New Jersey's first youth-focused trauma recovery center for local children in need of mental health and support services.
The new center is aimed to provide what its founder Al-Tariq Best calls a “safe space” for youth to openly discuss trauma they may have experienced through violence and are suffering its lasting consequences.
"It’s about letting [youth] know there’s a place that you can go," Best told TAPinto Newark. "We want to intervene early, and that’s why the trauma recovery center for youth is so important."
The center comes as part of a longtime vision of Best who also founded the adjoining center’s HUBB Arts & Trauma Center, otherwise known as “The HUBB,” nearly 15 years ago.
The HUBB came as a “challenge” to Best from his son, he said. When the founder and his sons were driving along Bergen and Clinton avenues one day, they witnessed a violent beating out the back window. After Best and his boys regathered themselves following the frightening scene, his eldest son asked him a question that would soon change the trajectory of his life.
“Dad, you’re always talking about being a part of the solution, not part of the problem. What are you doing to be part of the solution?"
At the time, Best admitted he had no answer. He was determined to change that.
In 2006, the Newark native established the HUBB on Prince Street. The center serves as a community organization that utilizes entertainment and education as key components of youth violence intervention and healing.
Growing up, Best explained that music allowed him an outlet to express some of his own traumatic experiences. Wanting to afford his community the opportunity to get professional support services, he founded the HUBB as a place for kids to express themselves through means of art and music.
“I knew growing up that this was a way of healing,” he said. “I took all the disciplines of arts and created programs from them. In the midst of them learning from the programs, I wanted to bring in social workers to now talk to them about what’s going on in their world so that they can be vulnerable.”
That vulnerability helped the community build trust in the HUBB, Best explained. By becoming a staple support program for local youth, the founder then wanted to expand the HUBB’s services.
When Best visited California six years ago, he visited a state-funded trauma recovery center that inspired his idea to bring a similar building to Newark.
“It drove me crazy because I asked myself, ‘Why don’t we have something like this in Newark?’” he said.
Dedicating $85,000 of his own money to help build out a new 9,000-square-foot space at the HUBB, Best said he teamed up with contractors who helped carry out the project at no expense to the founder.
“They came in and saw what we were doing here. They agreed to build out the other side for us, and we didn’t have to pay a penny for it,” the founder said.
Although the final touches are still being put on the new space, Best’s vision finally came to fruition on Tuesday when the center held a grand opening to formally announce it's open to serve the Newark community.
The event allowed local officials and attendees to tour the new facility, interact with its youth staff, and featured a performance by Best and the HUBB Stars.
“We finally have this place where we can really tap into and peel back the layers that the youth are going through and help them get to a point where they are making these bad decisions that you can’t take away,” he said.