Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Street Fight

Street Fight chronicles the bare-knuckles race for Mayor of Newark, N.J. between Cory Booker, a 32-year-old Rhodes Scholar/Yale Law School grad, and Sharpe James, the four-term incumbent and undisputed champion of New Jersey politics.

Fought in Newark's neighborhoods and housing projects, the battle pits Booker against an old style political machine that uses any means necessary to crush its opponents: city workers who do not support the mayor are demoted; "disloyal" businesses are targeted by code enforcement; a campaigner is detained and accused of terrorism; and disks of voter data are burglarized in the night.

Even the filmmaker is dragged into the slugfest, and by election day, the climate becomes so heated that the Federal government is forced to send in observers to watch for cheating and violence.

The battle sheds light on important American questions about democracy, power and -- in a surprising twist -- race. Both Booker and James are African-American Democrats, but when the mayor accuses the Ivy League educated Booker of not being "really black" it forces voters to examine both how we define race in this country. "We tell our children to get educated," one Newarker says, "and when they do, we call them white. What kind of a message does that send?"


Newark is a city of limitless strength and unbounded potential. It is a city of hope and promise. Newark is a city of accomplishment and a city of struggle. Newark's people, like the bricks from our Brick City nickname, are strong, resilient, enduring, and when we come together there is nothing we cannot create or achieve.

We are a people committed to strong, safe neighborhoods, to thriving schools and abundant economic opportunity. We are a city that rejoices and luxuriates in the arts and culture and have a history of setting the very rhythm for an entire nation. We are a city that boasts of great universities, houses of worship that span back decades and centuries, parks designed by America's greatest urban landscape designers and a transportation system that literally connects the globe.

Newark is a great American city. It is representative of America's success and her continuing efforts to make real the promise of this nation to everyone. Within Newark's borders lie many of America's greatest stories, some of her most courageous activists and some of her most sobering challenges. The future of our country will be defined here --by the children in our schools, the young men and women entering the workforce and by how our community meets the challenges before us. The future is now.

Street Fight tells a gripping story of the underbelly of democracy where elections are not about spin-doctors, media consultants, or photo ops. In Newark, we discover, elections are won and lost in the streets.

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