From Hip Hop to City Council

by Wanda Croudy

In the June election for Newark municipal council, Dupré “DoItall” Kelly proved victorious, winning the seat as councilman for the West Ward—where he grew up, went to school, and began his mission to serve as an advocate for his community. Running on the Ras Baraka ticket and aligning himself with the mayor’s plans for Newark, Kelly’s plans for the West Ward fell right into place.

Along with his upbringing by a strong single mother, Kelly credits the services provided through 211 Community Impact, the nonprofit organization he created over 10 years ago, with keeping him on the pulse of what the West Ward needs and expects. The organization’s mission is to stimulate interest in community issues and foster action for change by providing innovative education programs, public policy information and resources, and forums for active community engagement and inclusive decision-making.

The councilman said people have inspired him, which means more to him than their influence. “Being inspired is being in spirit with someone,” he said. Kelly wants to add to what is already established and move the needle forward.

As one-third of the platinum-selling hip-hop group Lords of the Underground, Kelly often found himself involved in thought-provoking, stirring, and inspirational conversations with fellow artists about his next steps after hip-hop. One such person Kelly called a friend—Tupac Shakur. He recalls conversations with Shakur when (while rolling dice) he talked about fighting for our people; fighting for our cultural mentality. He stressed that the next step for hip-hop artists was to enter public office and be the catalyst for needed change. “Pac, could be here now. He really was about it,” Kelly recalls. Tupac’s passionate words inspired him.

Kelly knew he was ready to assume the seat as councilman. Though he traveled the world as an entertainer, he knew he would come home to the West Ward and be an advocate for his community. Throwing his hat into the political ring, Kelly set out to speak to hundreds of residents. Walking the neighborhoods; riding the bus; attending community meetings; going to schools, businesses, block parties and even birthday celebrations; Dupré spent time with constituents, letting them know he heard their concerns and what they wanted from him as their councilman.

Asked about life as a member of the Newark Municipal Council, Kelly smiled wide and compared it to being in a fight. Describing his first few months in office as though training for a boxing match—he got his jab sharp, worked on his hook and increased his stamina, but then received a punch to the face. “Oh wow, I’m in a fight. That’s what politics is,” he said. There are campaign promises he wants to deliver on and goals he plans to accomplish. He knows, however, it’s the community who will make sure it happens—or the community will be the ones to “punch me in the face.” He will fight to get it done as the Newark councilman and the West Ward’s advocate.

To make a donation to the 211 Community Impact organization go to: www.211communityimpact.com/what-we-do

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