Residents Renewing Newark Initiative
Woodland Cemetery is a historic cemetery in Newark, New Jersey. The cemetery was founded in 1855 and occupies 37 acres of Newark's Central Ward. Woodland Cemetery is home to over 600 (identified) veterans, 350 from the Civil War as well as a host of other legendary entertainers, athletes, scholars and business leaders. In addition to a host of other enchanting features of the cemetery, its webpage also boasts the cemetery’s status as one of the first garden cemeteries in the region. Despite all this, Woodland Cemetery has served as blight to the community for more than 3 decades; virtually shutting it’s doors in the 1980’s (not that long after the Newark Riots of 1967). The neighboring communities have further suffered high crime rates, low property values, poor school systems and so forth.
The heirs of those buried at Woodland Cemetery privately own the cemetery. The cemetery is managed by a Board of Managers whom find themselves scrambling to secure resources to restore the cemetery. A vastly depleting trust fund coupled with rising maintenance costs renders a black eye to the cemetery and neighboring communities.
Organize Change, Inc., a local 501(C)(3) out of Newark, New Jersey seeks to work with Woodland Cemetery and others to resuscitate the cemetery and not only restore dignity to those buried at the cemetery but further revitalize a community that has long been the beneficiary of mismanagement and neglect.
The organization is starting a national project to clean and reopen Newark's historic Woodland Cemetery and help restore trust in a community so often forgotten. Revitalization of this cemetery translates into us restoring the dignity of the veterans who sacrificed their lives for our freedom; revitalization of this cemetery translates into a reaffirmation of our commitment to community; revitalization of this cemetery translates into our dedication to equity.
This project seeks to include a vast array of stakeholders and requires the diligent efforts of everyone in the community: the cemetery, residents (homeowners and tenants), business owners, elected officials, faith-based organizations, youth, and other relevant parties.
Here's our call to action. Sign the petition, tell a friend, remind a coworker, refer a teen, donate money, click like on Facebook.
Participation is open to the public and require an array of talents and energies. All ideas and efforts are welcome.
Specific talents are additionally needed in the areas of:
2. Tombstone Restoration
5. Insurance companies
6. Home improvement retailers
7. Grant writers
9. Non-profit and grass roots organizers
The idea of this project is to engage youth, their families and communities in a grassroots revitalization effort that holds the entire community structure accountable to one another. This project is geared to promote the critical intersection between the city's remarkably rich history and its continued strides toward rejuvenation.
As the city celebrates its 350th anniversary, we are offered an unique opportunity to reconcile past inequities with a renewed dedication to innovation around the city's most pressing challenges. We have called on the collaboration of several specific entities in the community to further the commitment to this effort:
1. Rutgers University (and other academic institutions in Newark, NJ): As an anchor institution in the community, its leadership is pivotal in providing financial support, strategic management, and quantitative analysis of citizen participation when relationships of trust are examined.
2. Prudential (and other insurance companies): Empowerment of the community is essential to this project and requires an education of the public about end of life planning/living wills/etc. Insurance companies also serve a critical role in assisting with a campaign to promote the pre-purchase of plots at Woodland Cemetery.
3. Home Depot (and other corporations in Newark, NJ): Corporations in Newark are also accountable for the prosperity of communities. Home Depot is uniquely intertwined in our effort as the business rests feet away from the entrance of the cemetery and serves as a commercial provider for much of the tools such a project requires. Moreover, Home Depot has a service commitment to veterans that is perfectly aligned with the interest of this project.
4. Ancestry (and other genealogy related businesses): Exploring the rich history buried under the debris of the cemetery is a critical stage in this project. Experts are needed to restore the fragments of history that lay scattered about the cemetery. While there are 600 identified veterans in the cemetery, it is unclear how many remain unidentified. More importantly, we must reconnect families who have loved ones buried in the cemetery and solicit their support.
5. The City of Newark/Newark Police Department: As we canvass communities and talk to families and business leaders, sentiments are clear: An eroded trust in government that produces cynicism and apathy in already fragile communities. This project provides opportunity for collaboration between and amongst stakeholders in the community that have long histories of fragmentation. This is a way for all segments of the community to be heard and share in the collective responsibility to improve neighborhoods.
1. Clean the cemetery and stimulate its ability to reopen and serve as a cultural and economic base for the immediate community and larger city.
2. Provide apprentice and work opportunities for residents, particularly adolescents in the community.
3. Hold government officials, community leaders (including the business community), and residents accountable for the plight of neighborhoods while beginning to forge relationships that foster mutual trust.
4. Celebrate and honor the diverse and rich history of Newark
What To Do Next:
1. Sign the petition to say you support the effort to clean and reopen the cemetery
2. Donate to the effort (money, time, equipment, expertise, etc.)
3. Spread the word (social media, school, work, etc.)
4. Share ideas and resources that would help advance the project
5. Gather a group of family, friends, coworkers, etc. and form a volunteer group