ASKED last month to name his role model, Ras Baraka mentioned Marion Barry, a former mayor of Washington, DC best known for smoking crack and running a City Hall of staggering incompetence and corruption. Washingtonians remember Mr Barry as a terrible manager, but he sure gave a rousing speech. That is perhaps why Mr Baraka admires him. It is also why, on May 13th, Newark elected Mr Baraka as its new mayor with 54% of the vote.
A charismatic speaker, he can quiet and excite a crowd like no one else in the city. “When I become mayor,” he often told voters, “we all become mayor.” How that would work in practice is unclear, but after his victory speech hundreds of his supporters marched down Broad Street to take City Hall. One exclaimed: “It’s ours again!”
Mr Baraka (pictured), a school principal, is as close to African-American royalty as one can get in Newark. His late father was a poet who gave voice to the Black Power movement. In 2004, he helped broker peace between the Crips and the Bloods, two rival gangs. Spike Lee, a film-maker, and Lauryn Hill, a singer, supported him. So did Sharpe James, an...Continue reading