The Montclair State University Board of Trustees has named Ras J. Baraka, the 40th and current mayor of Newark, New Jersey, as an honorary degree recipient for its May 2017 Undergraduate Commencement ceremony.
Baraka, an accomplished civic leader, educator and poet will address the graduating class and receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree on May 25 at the Prudential Center in Newark.
“Mayor Baraka has been an articulate advocate for the importance of education and how it can create positive change in our communities,” says Montclair State University President Susan A. Cole. “During his tenure as principal of Newark’s Central High School, his dedication to New Jersey youth led to an increase in test scores and a decrease in gang violence. Since then, as mayor of Newark, he has worked to unify his city by championing initiatives that improve public safety, enhance educational opportunities, and promote the city’s redevelopment. He is an excellent model for our students of public service.”
Elected in 2014 as the first native-born Newark mayor in half a century, Baraka has been a prominent member of the community for nearly three decades.
Baraka served as a member of the Newark Municipal Council from 2002 to 2006 and was concurrently appointed deputy mayor in 2002, a position he held until 2005.
As principal of Newark’s Central High School from 2007 until 2013, he was a dedicated advocate for student success. As mayor, he has opened nine “Centers of Hope,” which offer city residents a menu of recreational, educational and cultural enrichment programs. Since 2012, Newark has seen an increase in its high school graduation rates.
An accomplished author, Baraka’s latest work, Black Girls Learn Love Hard, is dedicated to his late sister, Shani Baraka. His spoken poetry has been featured on The Fugee’s 1996 album The Score and Lauryn Hill’s 1998 Grammy Award-winning album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
Educated in the Newark Public Schools, Baraka earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and history from Howard University and a master’s degree in education supervision from St. Peter’s University. The father of three daughters, he and his family currently reside in Newark.
The Undergraduate Commencement ceremony will begin at 9 a.m. on Thursday, May 25.