Only in New Jersey: Fighting for the Future

I’ve always said that politicians don’t spend enough time on issues concerning children for one simple reason—children can’t vote.

I’ve always said that politicians don’t spend enough time on issues concerning children for one simple reason—children can’t vote.

Terrance Aeriel was eighteen Dashon Harvey and Iofemi Hightower were 20. All three were on the verge of realizing their potential. They could vote, perhaps even hold office one day.

These Delaware State University students and great kids were killed execution-style for no apparent reason, except that they represented hope. They were breaking free from the cycle of violence that permeates sections of urban New Jersey and America. Natasha Aeriel, Terrance’s 19-year-old sister, miraculously survived the barbaric shootings. She will carry on in their memory and spend the rest of her life trying to understand the tragic events of August 4.

The suspects, ranging in age from 15 to 28, all pleaded not guilty to the attacks on kids whose only crime was spending a summer night behind the Mount Vernon school in Newark, talking and minding their own business.

In the wake of the shootings, angry Newark residents misguidedly called for Mayor Cory Booker’s resignation. Alleged presidential candidate Tom Tancredo, a Colorado republican, held a press conference on the steps of City Hall to accuse Newark of being a “sanctuary city” for illegal immigrants. Pundits all over the country, including loudmouth Bill O’Reilly, tried to smear a city they’ve never visited. Nobody’s ever ashamed to politicize a moment, no matter how horrific it may have been.

As city residents try to heal, there will be more trying times. There will be more murders. But in this city that I so dearly love, 40 years after it was nearly destroyed by riots, I sincerely hope that someone out there will find a way to stick up for kids and give them the chance to make lasting change. It’s too late for Terrance, Dashon, and Iofemi, but it’s not too late to make a difference in their honor.

I know this is the “Getaways” issue, but I gotta tell ya, I’m the wrong guy to talk travel. I was either born with, or contracted in my childhood, a malady known as idontwannagoitis. Dozens of Adubatos live within a five-mile radius of my Montclair home, so the inability to leave Essex County for any length of time might be genetic. Mr. Excitement, huh?  

One place you will find me is the Belmont Tavern on Bloomfield Avenue in Belleville. It’s right out of Goodfellas. Sinatra and Frankie Valli on the jukebox, Jimmy behind the bar, and several cranky waitresses slinging Chicken Savoy, cavatelli with pot cheese, and hot shrimp called “beeps.” (Don’t ask for the Savoy recipe—you could get hurt.) That guy over there? Neighborhood legend “Frankie the Fly.”  He is, like, 70 years old and hangs by the jukebox every night, mumbling to himself. He doesn’t get out much, either.

You’d think that with all 120 state legislative seats up for grabs, next month’s elections would be interesting. But don’t count on seeing many new faces. The Democrats will rule the Statehouse. On the presidential front, voter allegiances—some crossing party lines—to Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani should provide some Garden State fireworks until the conventions sort out who’ll be facing whom. 

Steve Adubato, PhD, is an Emmy Award-winning anchor for Thirteen/WNET and a media analyst for MSNBC. He provides commentary on talk radio station 770-WABC. He is the author of Speak from the Heart. E-mail him at [email protected]

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