This interview takes place on May 15, 2013 at Vonda’s Kitchen.
The city of Newark is ripe for the making and managing of its African American leaders, and a fruitful leader has emerged in 27 year-old Lynda Lloyd. Lloyd’s galvanizing sense of civic duty garnered the interest of NJ Patch when her nonprofit organization, Young Urbanites Unite, completed its Newark Voter Empowerment Tour last September. Just this April, an article titled, Women in Politics, featured Lloyd’s decision to run for Council-at-Large in November. But is she ready to fill the seat vacated by Congressman Payne? In this interview, Ms. Lloyd tells me how and why she’s ready to advocate for Newarkers on day one.
Zahra Johnson: I want to start by inviting you to answer a cliché term in a new way. It is well documented that you have had a “life of service.” How is this idea special where you are concerned, and given current culture?
Lynda Lloyd: I don’t see service as this thing that is separate from me; I’ve just been pursuing my passion. In terms of where we are right now, we’re at a critical time where many people don’t see themselves as a part of the community. And when you detach yourself from issues plaguing your community, because they don’t directly affect you, your neighbors’ problems will become your problems. So service is an obligation not an option. You don’t have to overextend yourself, but there’s something you should be able to pinpoint and say, “I can do that.” Mentor high school students; buy grocery for the neighbor next door. Or why not give some child a similar exposure that you give your own children? These small acts overwhelmingly have an impact.
ZJ: What did you learn as a former aide to Ras Baraka that will help you be an effective Council member?
LL: It helps significantly, but I wouldn’t just rest on my experience with Baraka to be the sole thing that has prepared me. I’ve had time to understand the roles and responsibilities from inside. Even before working with Baraka, being an aide with Congressman Payne, showed me how what a Congressman does on a federal level affects us on a local level. That experience was critical because it was a broader perspective. I understand the process of how to get things done, and I see the politics of how things don’t get done. The relationship between the city administration and the Council has a great impact on what gets done for residents.
ZJ: Talk about your time with Mamie Bridgeforth, and other experiences in civic leadership.
LL: I had a summer internship with Mamie Bridgeforth in 2003, before going to Howard University. It allowed me to advocate, in terms of community organizing, through her office. So, my exposure started in high school. I was president of the Newark branch NAACP, which gave me the exposure of public policy. The light bulb came on that public policy was the way to positively impact our quality of life. At the time, car theft was a bigger issue than it is now. People would drive stolen cars on the sidewalk. So, I started attending Council meetings. I started an anti-gang violence and auto-theft forum (as a junior) in partnership with the Newark Council. They connected me with the police department’s gang unit, and I reached out to other community activists. So having the local experience, then the federal experience, and now coming back to the local, has given me a well-rounded view. That’s what makes me say and really feel confident that I will be ready to serve efficiently on day one.
ZJ: How do you view the trouble of controversy or of “politics” rearing its head? I’m thinking of the Speight controversy last year
LL: I realize I’m only one person out of nine people. I understand that you need five votes. Some things are going to be controversial, and I will take them to my constituents. I will want to inform the voters that this is a difficult decision, and explain to them why. I’m going to do my own research and I’m going to go to groups, activists, etc., and ask for their expert opinion. There are going to be things that I’m not 100% for, but that’s give and take. I will have a backbone and stand for things. My decisions will be based on the issues and the circumstances, and what’s best for the residents.
ZJ: The issues published on your website are: Community Empowerment, Community Development, and Community Health. I really appreciate these areas of focus. Of course they include: public safety, jobs, housing, etc. Elaborate on the issue of education.
LL: Education falls under community empowerment simply because education is power. The more well-educated population we develop in Newark, the more residents that contribute to the society at a higher level. I believe in increasing quality and variation—the fact that people learn in different ways. It would be good to have a certification in something—automotive field, business, beauty field, something to enhance your background, and you could still go to college. Education also falls under community development because you are developing citizens by giving them quality education. It’s not just up to the schools.
ZJ: What are the duties of the Council?
LL: As part of the legislative branch of government, the Council is responsible for voting on and passing the budget. They create laws that govern how we live our lives in the city. Those are two of the major roles. But due to the lack of provision by the administration, City Hall has become a social agency. It’s because of the times we are in, and because resources are drying up. They (the Council) give money to organizations that are supposed to address the needs of residents.
ZJ: In an interview about your Newark Voter Empowerment Tour, your nonprofit Young Urbanites Unite aimed to register 10,000 Newark residents to vote. How successful were you all?
LL: It definitely empowered Newarkers, and in turn, our organization felt empowered by the work we were able to do with the tour. The voter education piece was the greatest reward. We got a couple of thousands of people registered. We would talk to residents who thought, “I can’t vote, I’m a criminal.” But by the end of the conversation, the wall was down. If you’re clear of charges, you can vote. With all of the issues with our state, at least in New Jersey, you are still eligible to vote. We are going to do it again for the governor’s election. And we are non-partisan because we are a nonprofit.
ZJ: How do you plan to expand on that experience for voter turnout in the Council election?
LL: I’ve been to a lot of different community events. I am willing to engage people at any level. You have to engage residents where they are. This is not going to be an easy thing to accomplish, but it’s also not going to be easy to be a councilwoman. We have posters in stores. We’re doing a lot of things on social media. I have a full platform out, and I want people to feel comfortable with me and know that my platform represents the interests of the community.
ZJ: As you know, I examine women’s issues in Newark. What issues are important for women in Newark?
LL: The issues that are important for women in Newark include: jobs, housing, and health. Obviously, in the city we need more jobs available for residents so that women can provide for their families. We also need more affordable housing, so that people live comfortably, and don’t spend the majority of their income on putting a roof over their heads. Women need more options to healthier foods in their community so they can provide healthier choices for their families.