Rutgers University-Newark officially opened its Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) Campus Center on Wednesday in partnership with the City of Newark, the Newark Public Library and the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.

Established at 10 colleges and universities throughout the United States, the TRHT Campus Centers is a national and community-based initiative developed by the Association of American Colleges and Universities and funded by Newman's Own Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

The TRHT Campus Center will focus on increasing positive engagement and perceptions of Newark among RU-N faculty, staff, students and surrounding communities and will seek to facilitate conversations around truth, racial healing and misperceptions that serve to exacerbate racial tension.

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The initiative will also leverage RU-N resources to facilitate a reduction in poverty and unemployment throughout the city and will initiate legislative policies on voting rights of individuals on parole or probation or who have a criminal conviction.

RU-N Executive Vice Chancellor Sherri-Ann Butterfield said community partnerships will strengthen the Campus Center's mission of lasting change.

"Leveraging the rich diversity of the city of Newark and Rutgers-Newark, and collaborating with the City of Newark and community partners such as the Newark Public Library and the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, we will endeavor to create a Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Campus Center that challenges us to have the difficult conversations that are necessary to bring about true and lasting social and economic change," she said.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka noted a proliferation of racial incidents over the last 15 months.

"Whether it was the violence that ensued in Charlottesville, Virginia, following the removal of Confederate statues, or the run-of-the-mill confrontations caught on cell phones by everyday citizens and passersby, the rise of racism, misogyny, Islamophobia and anti-immigrant sentiments threatens to undo the very tenets upon which our nation was founded," Baraka said. "Our colleges and universities are uniquely poised to explore, examine, and deliberate on the matter of race in America and to facilitate ideas, as well as nurture leaders, that offer solutions to this crisis."

Three RU-N administrators will co-direct the TRHT Campus Center, including Director of Community Engagement at the RU-N School of Public Affairs and Administration Sharon Stroye; Director of the RU-N LGBTQ and Intercultural Resource Center Yoleidy Rosario; and Acting Director of the RU-N Abbott Leadership Institute Kaleena Berryman.

The center's core leadership will be supported by senior RU-N faculty and administrators.
President and CEO of the NJIT Institute for Social Justice Ryan Haygood said the time is ripe for change and social justice.

"If we ever needed truth, racial healing, and transformation, we need it in abundance now," Haygood said. "That's what the TRHT Campus Center will help bring to our city and state more broadly. This is a difficult national moment, to be sure. And change, resistance, and social justice will occur from the ground up, starting on our campuses in our communities."

Newark Public Library Director Jeffrey Trzeciak expressed hope that the partnership would be beneficial to the Campus Center's overall mission.

"We hope our extensive collections, public programming, services, and unique historical archives-available at the main library and seven branches throughout the city-will be valuable resources for the Campus Center and community in its collective effort to dismantle racism and foster meaningful change," he said.

The TRHT Campus Center will present a series of activities throughout March entitled, "My Racial Healing Looks Like," which will include a variety of conversations, exhibits and performances around themes of racial healing, transformation and social justice.

A free launch reception will be held on Thursday, March 1, from 5- 8 p.m. at Express Newark, 54 Washington Street, 3rd floor, Paul Robeson Galleries.