NEWARK, N.J. — It was an exciting Tuesday afternoon in the city of Newark as star power joined local leaders in hopes of inspiring a community to rise.
Queen Latifah strolled on scene in the South Ward, but not to film an episode of her hit CBS show, “The Equalizer.”
Instead, she put on her hard hat and helped break ground on her the next phase of construction at her Blue Sugar Corp. development Rise Living.
“I would want to live here. I might live here,” she told CBS2’s Vanessa Murdock.
Latifah does consider it home.
“I was born here, St. Michael’s hospital,” she said.
As Dana Owens.
“There’s love in this city,” Latifah said. “There’s love from this Owens family for this city.”
Latifah is showing her love through Rise, a 76-unit housing complex boasting e-vehicle charging, a fitness center, commercial space for nonprofits, and 16 affordable housing units that she says will be as beautiful as the rest.
“There will just be a difference in price because we can’t price everyone out of Newark,” Latifah said.
The venture is a private and public one, with Life Assets and the city.
Life Assets CEO Alberto Goncalvez inspires with his story. He experienced homelessness as child.
“Being homeless as a kid, that gave me so much ambition to do better,” Goncalvez said.
For children experiencing homelessness or just tough times, he offers this:
“Stay strong. Believe in the themselves. Dreams do come true,” Goncalvez said.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka remembered the darkest day of the once-abandoned lot.
“A biker event that we had that spilled out into this area here. A fight broke out and there were shots fired and a kid got murdered right here in front of this abandoned property,” Baraka said.
He had no idea then that the property would become a source of inspiration.
“This land should be about life,” Latifah said.
The work to inspire neighbors with this project began long ago with the wrapping of the entire construction site, using local artwork, including photos of Newark students, one of Queen Latifah and her mom, Rita Owens, too.
“Newark is yours. Newark is ours,” Latifah said. “We come from here and we can do anything.”
They say they can create a South Ward in the city of Newark where kids can grow, learn and rise, but never want to leave.
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