Newark, NJ Unites Behind Combined post-Maria Effort for Puerto Rico

United by love, empathy and solidarity, all Newark stood united and ready to help Puerto Rico during its people's time of trial after the devastation of the island that is the homeland, and the heartland, of many city residents.

The call went out to all five city wards and far beyond as an array of civic leaders from both city politics and from the business community came together at a press conference at Newark City Hall on Monday to stand behind Puerto Rico, which lies prostrate in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

"We're going to make sure that Puerto Rico gets what it needs to get through this crisis," said Councilman Anibal Ramos, Jr., who represents Newark's predominantly Latino North Ward, a neighborhood where the language, music and food of Boricua has been embedded deep in the fabric of civic life for decades. "This is what we have to do for our people both here and in Puerto Rico."

Ramos told a tale with the same theme of pain felt throughout the Puerto Rican community in the state's largest city as he stood in a jammed City Hall side room: land lost, farms made fallow, worried phone calls to loved ones not yet returned.

Ramos shared a New York Times opinion article on his Facebook page earlier in the day, the title of which was "Puerto Rico is American. We Can't Ignore It Now."

It's crystal clear that Newark knows this fact, fueled with a passion for Puerto Rico that is radiating throughout the city.

There will be not one, but two Puerto Rican parties in Newark for Hurricane Maria relief back to back on Saturday, Oct. 7 and Sunday, Oct. 8, with all money going directly to the relief of the Puerto Rican people.

Newark Councilman-At-Large Luis Quintana told a tale of love for Puerto Rico to the assembled City Hall crowd that went beyond whatever divisions have recently riven Newark's Puerto Rican community.

"We're not going to use social media for petty nonsense now. We're going to use it to help our people back home in Puerto Rico," said Quintana. "The time for division is over. The time for unity is now."

State Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz (D-29) promised to use all of her all of her power as Assistant Majority Leader in the state Legislature to cajole Trenton to come to the aid of San Juan and the whole island.

Essex County Armando Fontoura, a Portuguese-American son of Newark's Ironbound neighborhood, pledged countywide law enforcement support as he mentioned how his wife cried over the cruel fate of the island where his family has vacationed for decades.

Essex County Joseph DiVincenzo, Jr., an Italian-American son of Newark's North Ward, noted how, as another regular visitor of Puerto Rico, he also would use all of his considerable political capital to help bring the island community all of the way back.

Newark Schools Superintendent Christopher Cerf noted how Newark's public school system, New Jersey's largest, stood ready to do whatever it takes to make Puerto Rico's recovery real, along with Newark's strong corporate community.

Not just city and state officials stood ready to help beleaguered Boricua: representatives of Newark's federal Congressional representation were in the room, including those from U.S.Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-8).

Newark police and firefighters flanked the crowd, including Newark Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose, as well as a contingent of both Newark and Bloomfield firefighters, including Bloomfield Fire Department Deputy Chief Lou Venezia.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka underscored the force of Newark united in the face of what Hurricane Maria did to Puerto Rico, a community poised to fight back in the face of the natural disaster.

"This is our opportunity to come together as a community," Baraka said. "When one of us is hurting, all of us are hurting. And it's our responsibility to make sure our community, and our city, is OK."

This article by Mark Bonamo originally appeared in TAPInto Newark.

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