Newark Central Ward Candidate: ‘Our Youth, After COVID, have Changed’

NEWARK – In a rematch from 2018, Central Ward High School educator and organizer Shawn McCray seeks the Central Ward seat currently occupied by Councilwoman Lamonica McIver.

McCray and McIver made the runoff four years ago, and McIver won, 1,578 to 1,216. McCray ran for the seat in 2014, too, but did not make the runoff, in a race eventually won by Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins over incumbent Darrin Sharif.

In his third attempt this year, McCray – the lone challenger to McIver – wants to close the 2018 gap, and to that end highlights his connectivity with youth, many of them downbeat about politics, especially in the COVID era.

Founder of the Zoo Crew, a youth basketball program, and Central Ward High School basketball coach, McCray can relate.

“I’ve been in the Central Ward probably 44 of my 55 years,” the candidate told InsiderNJ in an interview. “The only time I left was when the the projects we were living in were demolished. They moved us to Chadwick and Clinton avenues when my mom relocated to that area of Newark. Years later, we moved back to the Central Ward.”

McCray has gained notoriety for his work with young people as a youth basketball league founder/organizer and Central Ward High School basketball coach. But he said he’s more than a coach.

“I am a coach, I’ve been coaching all my life but it doesn’t really say who I am I am,” said McCray.

He is, in fact, an attendance counselor at the high school, in addition to basketball coach. A graduate of St. Benedict’s Prep, he graduated from Central Ward High School, then attended Keystone Junior College, and graduated from Caldwell University with a sociology major and minor in criminal justice. McCray worked as a case manager for adults with mental illness at Essex County Mental Health.

In that capacity, he said, “I saw them at their worst and at their best.”

McCray wants the valuable residents of his community to reconnect to the process.

“I’m not against development,” said the candidate. “The Central Ward is one of the major parts of the city and the state, but I just think the community is not being serviced. There is no one in City Hall who has bridged the gap between City Hall and the community. The voter turnout is always low. People give up. When I was younger, I didn’t believe in the political system. I thought politicians didn’t really believe in the community and were just out for themselves. So I understand. I think I am a valuable asset because I work with the youth. Our youth, especially after COVID, have changed, and I’ve seen the change because I’ve worked with youth for 30 years.”

McCray wants the city to pay particular attention to those young Newarkers who may not go to college, and who at 18, post high school, find themselves without opportunity.

For the (FULL!) Shawn McCray interview, please see below:

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