When you are the namesake of one of America’s most prominent 20th century African-American writers and activists and your brother is the Mayor of the largest City in the State of New Jersey, your heritage speaks of legacy and your destiny is one of service. Amiri Baraka, Jr., a longstanding political strategist in New Jersey and the current Chief of Staff to Mayor Ras J. Baraka, is highly regarded among government operatives and elected officials for his operational acumen and his unmatched skills as a community organizer. Any observer to his ability to coordinate a town hall in Newark while overseeing the work habits of more than 3000 City employees would soundly agree.
But, these skills were not acquired through symbiosis. Amiri — “Middy” to his family and close associates — refined his management and leadership schools in boardrooms and classrooms and on basketball courts long before he began to design campaign strategies.
As an artistic control manager for music artists on labels such as So So Def, Middy secured deals and oversaw tours for positive hip-hop acts. Soon after, he founded Four Corners Entertainment, a Newark-based artist management firm, which facilitated recording deals for budding artists.
Yet, amid the world tours and record deals, Amiri’s heart remained close to the soul of his hometown of Newark: the people. For nearly two decades, he served as a world history educator and truancy officer for Weequahic High School in the City’s South Ward. In 1990, Baraka co-facilitated the United Students Organization, a movement which worked to incorporate a multicultural curriculum in Newark Public Schools. This would also eventually lead to classroom enhancements and facility improvements in some schools. Later, as a distinguished and admired alumnus of Newark’s University High School, he was invited to return to coach the girls’ basketball team — a passion that he still enjoys.
Currently, when he is not handling the daily operations of City Hall, Middy is the visionary energy behind Bottom Up Consulting, a political strategy firm with a focus on ground-level organizing and campaign management. The firm is busy preparing for the upcoming election season.
Amiri received his degree in Education and Afro-American studies from Howard University. His joy is his six-year-old daughter, Isis Shani, who was named for his beloved sister, Shani Isis.