Governor Phil Murphy Visit to Community Gallery Akwaaba, Located in the West Ward of Newark NJ.


On the evening of October 21, 2021,  New Jersey Governor Phil. Murphy visited the beautiful and elegant community Gallery named Akwaaba,  owned by Laura Bonas Palmer and Mr. Ray Palmer. Located at 509 South Orange Ave in the West-Ward of Newark NJ.  Operating as more than a gallery, it holds as a creative space for artists, art hub, and community venue. Akwaaba opened its door on February 15th, 2019, welcoming members of the community.  Serving as an example of what it means to re-invest in the City of Newark, last night's event was a verbal catalyst for progress and revitalization. 

Governor Phil Murphy and First Lady Tammy Murphy Greet owners of Akwaaba Gallery, Laura Bonas Palmer and Mr. Ray Palmer

Warmly Greeting everyone at the podium, Laura expressed clearly just how much the Gallery is a reflection of both her and Mr. Ray's commitment, values, and standards for which they exemplify to the city of Newark. 

"This is our investment to Newark, and we hope that it would inspire other people to invest in Newark as well and to commit to creating a better city and to building a better City. "

Sharing the same sentiment of gratitude, Governor Phil Murphy acknowledge just how beautiful the gallery was upon entering. When speaking to the crowd he went on to mention it a second time stating,  

Governor Phil. Murphy admired the gallery and told Owner Laura Bonas Palmer "I can eat off the floor".

"I walked in the door. I turned to Laura. I said I can have dinner off this floor. This is the coolest gallery I've been in in a long, long time. So thank you for so graciously hosting us." - Governor Phil D. Murphy

 Reverend Derrick L. Green, Senior Advisor for Diversity, Faith, Urban and Regional Growth for New Jersey Governor Phil D Murphy, took to the podium with great enthusiasm. As he gazed into the crowd, unable to contain his excitement he applauded Laura and her husband for their great contribution and legacy, the establishment of Akwaaba.   He went on to acknowledge Rev. Dr. Durr a pastor and owner of multiple businesses, city officals Larry Crump, Community leader Dupri Doital Kelley (who is running for the West Ward City Council) amongst many who were in attendance.  This all led to the introduction of the Newark Native, Larry Hamm, an activist of over 50 years, and chair of the People’s Organization for Progress (P.O.P.)

"I consider him moral, the moral conscience of our state. Someone who believes in justice. Someone who believes in equality and equity."- Rev. Derrick L. Green

 Indeed Larry Hamm does "walk the walk",  after Completing a 67-mile march-"The Long March For Justice" on October 8th, 2021- to Trenton For Police Accountability, Social Justice, And Economic Progress. His dynamic speech and engagement with the crowd were positive and provoking. The almost homecoming occasion conjured up lots of feelings, as he summarized the tremulous past 2 years our country has faced in regards to race relations, COVID 19, and the stain past president Donald Trump left. Members of the crowd lingered on to his every word as he shared his appreciation of the Governor's recent accomplishment, noting that despite the hurdles, he was still able to push the state forward progressively. 

To re-cap,  Larry continued to urge the crowd and those who supported him during his run for senator, to vote in the upcoming election and re-elect the Governor for a second term. Creating dialogue, he Reminded the crowd of Bill A-5823 that was introduced November 7, 2019, under the current Governor administration. The new legislation states any persons convicted of an indictable offense who are on parole or probation will still retain their fundamental rights and civic duty to vote. According to documents provided in the legislation, "over half of those denied the right to vote are black due to racial disparities in the criminal justice system." ( Another notable is S1036-  the Independent Prosecutor Bill, which hands over the responsibility of investigation and the prosecution of a person's death caused by law enforcement while on duty, to be handled by the State Attorney-general. 

" What we need in Newark for over 60 years, people have demanded a police review board with subpoena power. We marched in support of Assembly woman McKnight Bill"

Taking this vital opportunity to express the need for more social justice reform, Larry gestured towards the governor explaining the demands for the bill (A-4272)- The civilian Review Board- to pass. According to, The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice (collectively “the DOJ”) issued a report in July 2014 finding a pattern and practice of unconstitutional policing by the Newark Police Department. Most recently under the federal investigation conducted by the  United States v. Newark, Independent 15th quarterly report, survey shows that when compared to white civilians, Black and Hispanics were still disproportionately having a negative experience with the Newark Police department.

 Confidently speaking to the crowd, the governor assured Newark residents that voting for him in the upcoming election (which starts on November 2nd),  would be a step forward in seeing a more progressive change in the state of NJ. He argued that his opponent Jack Ciattarelli, the republican candidate also running in the election conservative views in respect to gun laws, women's rights, and overall political views is reminiscent of former President Trump's campaign and a step backward.  

 Two elderly ladies seated at the entrance desperately expressed the need for housing demonstrating the cries of the city and its housing problems. As the evening continued, the air of optimism was evident. Despite no questions directed to the governor, his presence in the West Ward of Newark was a clarification for many of what the future holds for the City of Newark regarding redevelopment, housing, social justice and much more.

Governor Phil.Murphy standing in front of Mashell Black Painting, "Border Patrol"

"I just want to say unequivocally, we need you. And the stakes are so high, just running any chance that we might not get this right.It would literally push the trajectory of our state from forward to backward. And that's the way we think about it. We've made a lot of progress. Yes, that's right. Larry mentioned some of the things we've done. I'm incredibly proud of criminal justice reform, funding schools, minimum wage, equal work, equal pay for equal work, the right to vote if you're on probation or parole."- Governor Phil.D.Murphy

For more information on Governor Phil. Murphy campaign, please click here

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The Akwaaba Gallery is located at  509 S Orange Ave, Newark, NJ 07103 for more information on events/venue please click here

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