Why Newark Deserved the Challenge Grant from Mark Zuckerberg

You know. I’m glad the public is aware of the education crisis in America and I’m not gonna lie, Mark Zuckerberg and Oprah are the reasons people finally, well, seem to care. I can not be happier. What makes me sad are the cynical comments.

Mark Zuckerberg doing good for positive press because of some movie — ok, fine. The timing is bad and I can see why people would think that, but you guys. What motivation do Mayor Cory Booker or Governor Chris Christie have? Have any of you actually been to Newark? Or New Jersey? (Teterboro and EWR don’t count.)

So I challenge all of you, on the Internet, to please learn more about why Newark deserved the grant before spewing negativity. Here are some resources to get you started: The Oprah clip: click this. Mark Zuckerberg’s thoughts: click here. My first hand experiences in New Jersey and thoughts: click this one. Slightly outdated round-up of Mayor Cory Booker’s background and accomplishments is here. More on the challenge grant via the WSJ. The thread where I posted that comment is on StartupEducation’s FB fan page. Click this to see the thread and while you’re at it, fan the page. Follow along. Then decide to critique.

Thank you.

Cory Booker is my hero and our future President of the United States

If you don’t know who Cory Booker is, that’s okay.

Honorable Cory Booker is the mayor of Newark, New Jersey. If you are unfamiliar with Newark, New Jersey, that’s okay too. You are not alone. I only know of Newark — well New Jersey — because I lived in Manhattan. But if you are here, reading this, politics, government, and POTUS (President of the United States) is somewhat of an interest to you…right? RIGHT? (Just nod your head yes.)

Well, our country is in deep sh*t and Mayor Cory Booker gives me hope. He makes me believe in politicians again. So what makes me believe he should be our future president? He is different, and here is why:

1. Who
The man is well educated, yet aware of the realities…well aware, as in, first hand. Who else grows up in an affluent area, attends Stanford University earning a B.A. in poli sci, an M.A. in sociology, studies abroad at Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship, obtains a law degree at Yale, then chooses to live in notorious projects How do I know it wasn’t for show? He remained in those projects after he was appointed to the respective positions. People. That is over ten years of living in the ghetto, by choice. Then…THEN moves into another decrepit area (well, straight hood) after his resident projects were torn down. Who does that? Cory Booker does.

2. What
He has all those academic accolades, so what? Well this is what. In one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S., Newark, where the high school dropout rate was 60% and a poverty level of 30% and all sorts of unfathomable statistics, he ran for mayor. Lost. Did a lil of this (and I say that lightly.) Ran again. Fought a political battle, and won the mayoral race. Once in office, he drops the crime rate more than 30% among countless achivements. (latter is PDF)

3. Why
Mayor Booker cares — truly cares. He is the real deal. How do I know?
– He showed up to a constituent’s home after reading a complaining Tweet and shoveled snow (source)
– Holds monthly office hours sessions for residents (source)
– Goes door to door to educate the people in his city about their options. (source)
– Performs customer service and interacts one on one with his constituents. (source)
– Not just against political corruption but fights it. Like, cracks down. (source)
– Maintains his own social networks (by choice) — his Facebook is pretty awesome — to have his own voice heard. [sidenote: Mayor Booker, please update your blog!]
– Declined offers for political fast track. A 2002 Senate seat — which would’ve put him two years ahead of President Obama as the only African American man in Senate at that time — and turned down President Obama for a role in the White House to continue his efforts in Newark. The White. House. For Newark. Really? REALLY? WTF. And I’m not in disbelief only because I hate New Jersey.

The more I Google, the more articles I read, the more I get to know the man, I cannot believe a legit politician like him exists. We need more citizens like him in office.


We must want people like Cory Booker to lead and represent our country. It is our responsibility — we the everyday people — to elect officials like the Honorable Mayor Cory Booker into national government. And I truly hope, one day, Mayor Cory Booker will be President Cory Booker.

…I hope.

Connect with the Mayor:
+ On Twitter: @CoryBooker
+ On Facebook: http://fb.me/corybooker
+ His official site: http://corybooker.com

Dear New Jersey, I don’t like you

New Jersey. Ever been?

If you haven’t, that’s okay — most only go to the airports. Heck, I was one of those too. Newark International Airport is so close to Manhattan, when I lived in The City, I used to fly out of Newark a lot — more often than I can remember. I’ve only been through the actual city of Newark once, only because I was lost. It was around 2003 when I just moved to the East Coast from California, and I still remember the sad sights, the racial slurs, and how terrified I was. I wanted to get out of there as fast as I could and never ever return.

Along with my Newark trauma, it took almost a year to adjust to East Coast life. You see, I was guilty of living in the California bubble — for a lack of a better term — and realized how rainbows and butterflies California is after I lived out of state. I rarely experienced racial divide. I am Asian (Japanese), and in California —especially in the SF Bay Area— blatant racism is non existent. People never outright called me names until I got to the East Coast. Why people thought it was ok to say “go back where you came from” or call me derogatory names was beyond me. I couldn’t understand why strangers hated me so much.

Another huge adjustment was witnessing socio-economic divides on a daily basis. In California, our cities are separated —or shall I say segregated— and the socio-economic lines are rarely blurred. Ghetto? What ghetto? Oh, urban areas I mean; don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable by being politically incorrect.

I was raised in a wealthy area and my friends and I were taught to stay within our city and area limits. Everyone abided except me. I’ve spent time in Hunter’s Point, EPA, and the Mission — areas that are predominately Black, Mexican, Samoan or Tongan, and was never afraid of walking down the streets. Scared, maybe, but never afraid. On the East Coast, there are parts where I am terrified of my well being (i.e. deep in Brooklyn or New Jersey.) The more states I visit, the more I realize California is a very special place

So coming from that, the cross country move was a huge adjustment and the East Coast felt like a whole ‘nother world. I was baffled, angry, then frustrated by clearly affluent people turning blind eyes to their surroundings. I went through a phase of yelling my disgust at the limos and town cars (in my head) shuttling privileged people who only care about themselves and their personal wealth. Granted, it’s not their faults, as capitalism is what our country is built on but I just couldnt help but wonder: Wtf is wrong with you? Our country is falling apart, why aren’t you helping to fix it? Why don’t you care? To me, the ignorance is equivalent to flipping off our country, everything it stands for and inadvertently disrespecting what our ForeFathers fought for: Freedom. Liberty. And justice for all. Then after I adjusted to life on the East Coast, my anger turned into sadness. I couldn’t and still can’t understand why so many people simply do not care.

But I digress. Where was I? Oh. New Jersey.

Wow. New Jersey. Where do I even begin? After my first encounter with Newark, I’ve been back to various cities for several reasons. Nothing prepared me for the sights of Camden, Trenton, Jersey City (the otherside of the Turnpike) and Newark. Don’t get it twisted, I have seen my share of the ghetto. I’ve been to the heart of Baltimore MD. You know, The Wire? Have friends residing deep in predominately Black areas of Brooklyn, where the only Asian person runs the local Chinese restaurant behind bullet proof windows. I’ve been down South — New Orleans, South Carolina, and a few other states, as well as Detroit — like the hood of Detroit. Even after all of my visits to different parts of the country, New Jersey, is the only state I never want to return to.

Am I making you uncomfortable? Are you judging me? Do you think I am being dramatic? Well, take a look at those cities in Google Image Search. Here we have Camden, Trenton and Newark – photos don’t lie. I haven’t stepped foot back in those three cities since 2005ish and the images are still burnt in my mind.

The cities (outside of downtown) were mostly flat, and rundown buildings were stretched for miles on out. When I close my eyes and picture the streets, I still get overwhelmed by the sadness and helplessness  — almost like claustrophobia from the thought of being stuck, as the same questions circle in my head: How is it okay the streets are scattered with broken glass, flat tires, garbage, and…filth. Why do the citizens hate me so much they think it is ok to call me racist names? And what about the children? Do the kids know there is a whole world, just waiting to be explored by them? That they can achieve anything they put their minds to?? How do the residents…find hope?

On and on the questions continue and it is frustrating how there are no answers. So it’s not really New Jersey I don’t like. It’s our people, our government, and the state of this country that I really don’t like. And the worst part, is that I don’t know how to make it better.

Our Country is in Deep Sh*t

Twitter _ Mona Nomura_ Bay Area Summer School Get ...

Enough is enough.

I Tweeted the article on Bay Area summer schools getting cut and the response was well, let me put it this way. All I heard were crickets chirping at the tumbleweeds rolling across my monitor.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t fault anyone for their silences. I mean, how do you respond to something like that? I don’t know either, but sometimes, I can’t help but to wonder: do we (our nation) even care?

Pardon the profanity, but our country is in deep shit. Our educational system – the foundation of this country, is an utter failure.

…and those are only a few examples from people I correspond with. Google “budget cuts education” and the number of news articles that pull up are ridiculous.

These budget cuts are unacceptable.

Especially, since I learned the United States is tied for first place with Switzerland for annual spending per student on its public schools*. I don’t know about you, but “not enough funding” sounds like a load of crap to me.

How is our failed educational system ok?

Well, it is not. Something MUST be done.

…I just don’t know what (yet).
But enough is enough.

*via Wikipedia and OECD
**Further discussion on my Facebook and FriendFeed.