Ras Baraka (born April 9, 1970) is an American politician who is currently the Mayor of Newark, New Jersey. He was previously a member of the Municipal Council of Newark and the principal of the city’s Central High School until he took an indefinite leave of absence to run for the 2014 Newark mayoral election, which he won on May 13, 2014. Baraka was sworn in as the city’s 40th mayor at ceremonies at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center on July 1, 2014 for a four-year term.
A Newark native, Baraka is son of poet and activist Amiri Baraka and his wife Amina. Ras J. Baraka was educated in the Newark Public Schools and subsequently earned a BA in Political Science from Howard University in Washington, DC, and an MA in Education Supervision from St. Peter’s University in Jersey City. He was principal of Central High School from 2007 until 2013.
Baraka is editor of In the tradition: an anthology of young Black writers (1992).
Baraka was featured on singer Lauryn Hill’s 1998 The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, as the narrator of several interludes on the album. He also recorded the intro to The Score, The Fugees’ second album. Baraka and Hill recorded an unreleased single together entitled “Hot Beverage in the Winter”, which later featured on his spoken-word album Shorty for Mayor.
Baraka dedicated his collection of poems Black Girls Learn Love Hard to the life of his late sister, Shani Baraka. who had been fatally shot in 2003. He has read as part of the city’s Dodge Poetry Festival.
Since its inception in 2004 Baraka has participated in the National Political Hip-Hop Convention.