Peace Education Summit, "Time 100" — Has Newark Finally 'Arrived'?
Newark, New Jersey is not exactly unknown to the world. After all, we have a major international airport, so over a billion sophisticated travelers know that Newark is a city near Manhattan. Other travelers, however, may think that "Newark" is just one of New York City's three major commercial-aviation airports, like "LaGuardia" and "JFK".
In recent years, Newark has started to emerge from the shadow of its big brother across the Hudson. That emergence started with NJPAC, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center that former Mayor Sharpe James brought to the city and which quickly became a major venue for big-name performers in classical music, and some pop acts, comics, dance troupes, etc.
Over the years since its 1997 opening, NJPAC has served as home to the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and hosted performances by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (saw it), Bill Cosby, Alvin Ailey's American Dance Theater, Bowfire (saw it with Gaetano, who treated), Smokey Robinson, Yo-Yo Ma, Johnny Mathis, Sarah Brightman, Sting, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir; hosted a fundraiser for then-candidate Barack Obama; and, last year, served as home base for the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, the largest poetry event in North America — to name just a few of the things that NJPAC has brought to Newark. A more complete list appears in Wikipedia, which says that NJPAC is the sixth-largest performing arts center in the United States and has had 6 million visitors, including more than a million children. And every one of them got home safe.
Momentum picked up with the opening of what began, also under Mayor James, as the "Newark Arena" and got a slitely classier and more prestigious name when one of the world's most important financial-services companies, Prudential Financial (whose world HQ is in Newark), paid to put its name on the "Prudential Center". (It also put its name on the larger of the two theaters in NJPAC, Prudential Hall. The other is the Victoria Theater, the portal to which this next foto shows.)
PruCenter quickly became "The Rock", after Prudential Financial's logo, the Rock of Gibraltar. I guess that was an act of public-relations legerdemain by Prudential Financial's p.r. wizards. Or was it PruCenter's p.r. wizards? Or sportswriters' doing? However it happened, the manly, powerful nickname "The Rock" (since abandoned by former pro wrestler and now actor Dwayne Johnson) now applies to Newark's sports and entertainment arena, and the "solid as a rock" connotation that the Prudential corporation wanted to attach to itself when it chose the Rock of Gibraltar as its symbol, now attaches in some measure not just to the arena that bears Prudential's name but also to the city in which both reside, Newark, NJ — or, as I put it, "Newark USA", since I want people to think of only one of the world's many Newarks when they hear "Newark".
I have mentioned that the inspiration for the Prudential logo came from Laurel Hill, a rock outcrop in the Meadows that has also been called, less attractively, "Snake Hill". Wikipedia says:
Snake Hill has had a modest, if largely anonymous, impact on the popular consciousness. A New York advertising executive, passing the hill on a train, is said to have drawn from it the inspiration for the Prudential "Rock of Gibraltar" logo in the 1890s.
(By the way, I had assumed that the name "Laurel Hill" derived from (mountain or other) laurel shrubs growing on it somewhere, but Wikipedia provides a different explanation:
The name changed from Snake Hill to Laurel Hill in 1926, when Hudson County freeholder Katherine Whelan Brown said that it was the "crowning Laurel of Hudson County" because of its prominence in the low lying meadowlands.
So it's a classical reference, to a wreath of laurel leaves awarded to the winner of an honor. In any case, The Rock has become a "crown"ing glory for Newark. But we mustn't rest on our laurels.)
Two minutes spent at the home page of prucenter.com shows how major a venue The Rock has become. McDonald's Gospelfest, Katy Perry, the NBA Draft, Josh Groban, Keith Urban with guest Jake Owen, American Idols Live (2d year in a row), Taylor Swift (also 2d year in a row, with two extra dates this year), Andre Rieu, Cirque du Soleil, and Sade with guest John Legend are just some of the events upcoming. Ricky Martin and Lady GaGa were here this month. Every major tour, from Britney Spears to Justin Bieber, to the Blue Collar Comedy team and Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus, has either already been here, or is keenly aware of the advantages of coming to Newark, so might appear in the future. About the only major act that has not appeared and seems to have no plans to appear in the Prudential Center is New Jersey's own Bruce Springsteen, who seems unwilling to deign to appear in an indoor arena — at least not in Newark, the great city of his own state. No, for "The Boss", only gigantic outdoor stadiums appear to suffice. I can wait. Tho Springsteen and I were both raised in Monmouth County, he's never been a great favorite of mine. And who needs Springsteen when Newark has had Bon Jovi (who is much better looking) in PruCenter and Pope John Paul II in the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart (which JPII created into a Basilica, while here), and next month gets a visit from the Dalai Lama to NJPAC!
That's right, the Dalai Lama is scheduled to appear at a Peace Education Summit in NJPAC, May 13th to 15th. The Dalai Lama has already been to the Newark Museum three times, and consecrated its Tibetan art area in 1990. I'm not clear whether he will stop by a fourth time this visit.
The Summit is subtitled "The Power of Nonviolence".
The Newark Peace Education Summit is a three day conference focusing on peacemaking practices from around the world. It features panels and workshops with His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Somaly Mam, Nobel Laureates and peace advocates from a wide cross section of cultures, disciplines and perspectives. The summit will explore the programs, policies, and methods used by communities to establish peace, why and how they work, and how to replicate them in America and around the world.
The 3 Nobel Peace Prize laureates (a reference to "laurel" again) are (Ms.) Shirin Ebadi, (Ms.) Jody Williams, and the Dalai Lama himself. There are 71 other speakers scheduled, over three days of panels. Let's see what kind of world-press coverage the Summit gets, and if the coverage speaks to the host city or only the proceedings within the Summit.
Time 100. I was standing in line for the cash register at the East Orange ShopRite Thursday evening when I glanced over the magazine racks. What should I see but a foto-montage on the cover of the May 2d issue of TIME Magazine, in which appears none other than Newark's mayor, Cory Booker, among the "Time 100 Most Influential People in the World". World. Not Nation. World.
Meet the most influential people in the world. They are artists and activists, reformers and researchers, heads of state and captains of industry. Their ideas spark dialogue and dissent and sometimes even revolution. Welcome to this year's TIME 100[.]
The squib about Mayor Booker was written by Oprah Winfrey (who is also on the cover; the item about her is by Ted Turner).
The increased attention to Newark of late is most welcome, but only if it produces balanced mentions, not the same old "poor Newark" crap of which we have seen far too much. Some of us already knew that Newark was a fine city with a lot going for it and a lot going on in it that deserved more attention. But it's nice to see that outsiders are finally catching wise. "Newark" isn't a joke anymore, even tho it does have a K-sound and is in New Jersey, a favorite target of sneering comics. As Newark's prestige grows, so will New Jersey's. Win-win.