Chigozie U. Onyema, a Newark-based attorney, activist, and community organizer, this week will formally announce his candidacy for Newark West Ward City Council.
That’s the seat currently occupied by jammed-up Councilman Joe MacCallum, who will not run for
reelection with Mayor Ras Baraka’s team next year. Onyema’s announcement sets up a collision course for MacCallum’s seat with Baraka’s choice, rapper, community activist and organization leader Dupre “Doitall” Kelly.
Kelly is also expected to make a formal announcement this week – also on July 10th. Baraka is expected to be at his side in the West Ward.
Also in the race – former South Ward Councilman Oscar S. James II.
For his part, Onyema began his career as a staff attorney for the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, where he fought to remove employment barriers for individuals returning to their communities after periods of incarceration. Most recently, he served as Assistant Commissioner and Director of Policy and Regulatory Affairs for the NJ Department of Community Affairs, under Lt. Governor Sheila Y. Oliver, where he led the policy team that evaluated the impact of state and federal legislation on the Department’s programs and objectives.
According to Onyema, “City Council is the office closest to the people.” He believes that through leadership, and with integrity, the next Councilmember can confront the pressing challenges facing residents of the West Ward, from public safety to quality of life to public education to economic justice.
“I am committed to a world, and a West Ward, where everyone can thrive and reach their full potential,” Onyema said.
As a homeowner, member of the Ivy Hill Neighborhood Association, and Chair of the West Ward Complete Count Committee, he says he recognizes the challenges to making this vision a reality.
“We can only realize this vision, if we ensure that people have a meaningful role in the decisions that impact their lives and we distribute resources and services equitably,” said the candidate.
Onyema earned his AA from Essex County College, BA from Howard University, and law degree from New York University School of Law. He has received numerous honors for his advocacy and organizing, including “40 Under 40” recognition by the National Bar Association as one of the nation’s best advocates. He also received the 40 Under 40 Rising Stars award from the NYU Law Alumni of Color Association and the Distinguished Alumni Award from the NYU Black Allied Law School Association.
Onyema’s platform is built around Reimagining Public Safety, by prioritize funding for social services and community development in the most challenging neighborhoods; forming a West Ward Quality of Life Task Force to coordinate efforts between the Department of Public Works and residents to identify and abate problem properties and unkept corridors; and, Advancing Economic Justice, by fighting for equitable and inclusive economic development in every part of Newark.
“As our city grows, residents deserve good jobs and increased voice, power, and ownership. Together, we can make that a reality,” said Onyema.
This will be a must-watch ward.
No one really gives anyone much of a chance against incumbent Mayor Baraka next year, but Newark insiders insist the West Ward matchup between Kelly and Onyema for the seat of a disgraced former Baraka ally will command attention.