January 19, 2023

The View from Brick City: Infinite Hope

Sam Caucci

Reflections on MLK’s 1968 Visit to Newark

Just a few weeks ago, I began my second term on the City of Newark’s Workforce Development Board. 

We have our work cut out for us.  

More than fifty years since Martin Luther King delivered his “Other America” speech, I can walk down Broad Street and see them: two different cities, two different Newarks. Side by side, a world apart.  

In one, an ambitious campaign has been waged to bring employers and companies to the city. Its skyline reflects a two billion dollar investment that’s been made in commercial and residential development. There are cultural centers, events, and restaurants.

In the other? Lots left vacant since the 1967 riots stay that way. The residents of this Newark are not white. They have the same labor force participation rate as the rest of the country but hold only 18% of the jobs in the city where they live. What work they do find is part-time, and low-paid. 

Eight days before his assassination, Dr. King gave one of his final speeches in Newark, at South Side (now Shabazz) High School. 

King meets with supporters in Newark. The Star-Ledger, March 27, 1968

The 1967 riots, sparked by the violent arrest of a Black cab driver by two white police officers, had cost the city dearly. The streets were still lined with rubble when King arrived, 9 months later.  

Though the city had begun to dig itself out, few felt it would succeed. 

A report, published October that year in Commentary Magazine, summed up the sentiment: “The impression, on leaving [Newark], is what it was on entering: sterility, a dingy collection of commercial buildings with a stunted air over them, spreading away in a monotonously flat expanse.” 

As far as the author was concerned, the city “could easily [become] a place where nothing grows, where tender shoots sprout and then wilt.” 

This was an opinion that King did not share. 

Disappointment, he told us, is finite– we can accept it, as long as we “ never lose infinite hope.”

The school where he spoke was located in a particularly hard hit neighborhood. Evidence of how dire the situation was must have been everywhere— but, reflecting this week on his life and legacy,  I think he saw what I still see in this city and its young people: possibilities, talent, and drive. Infinite hope.

Addressing the students of South Side, he told them: 

The doors of opportunity are opening now, and we’ve got to be ready to enter. Set out early to discover what you are going to do in life. Be the best of whatever you are. We must feel that we do belong and we do count.

Newark may be an old city, one of the oldest in this country, but it’s a young one, too: the median age is only 35, and nearly a quarter of its residents are under 18

There’s so much to be optimistic about for the future, and so much of it is right here.

1Huddle was built by Brick City. I am proud to serve on the Workforce Development Board, to partner with nonprofits, and organizations focussed on Newark’s young people. It is my infinite hope that if we can give these kids the opportunity; the right skills and the right tools, the world they make will be better than the one Dr. King left behind.

About 1Huddle

1Huddle is a coaching and development platform that uses quick-burst mobile games to more quickly and effectively educate, elevate, and energize your workforce — from frontline to full-time.

With a mobile-first approach to preparing the modern worker, a mobile library of 3,000+ quick-burst employee skill games, an on-demand game marketplace that covers 16 unique workforce skill areas, and the option for personalized content, 1Huddle is changing the way organizations think about their training – from a one-time boring onboarding experience to a continuous motivational tool. 

Key clients include Loews Hotels, Novartis, Madison Square Garden, PIMCO, TAO Group, and the United States Air Force. To learn more about 1Huddle and its platform, please visit 1huddle.co.

Sam Caucci, Founder & CEO at 1Huddle

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