NEWARK, N.J. (PIX11) — When PIX11 first met Shavar Jeffries last year, he was relatively unknown to Newark voters despite the fact, this was a man whose family goes back about 100 years in the city.
Jeffries entered the mayoral race at the bottom of pack last May and by January 2014, he became one of two candidates left. Jeffries poll numbers have improved drastically and he’s now closing in on his opponent, Ras Baraka.
Jeffries said his family was never one of privilege. Life has certainly delivered its blows to Jeffries from a young age. He is a man who perhaps should never have made it to where he is today and yet here he is and he contributes all of his accomplishments to his community and his ever supportive grandmother, a woman who passed away suddenly this past December.
“I love my grandmother to death. I wouldn’t be here without her. She was everything to me,” said Jeffries.
Jeffries was born to a mother who was only 19 years old, but she was unprepared to take care of her son, so Jeffries said much of his younger years were spent in the hands of different relatives. Around the age of eight, however, Jeffries mother decided to take him to California where she fell in love and married a local locksmith. The relationship quickly turned violent and Jeffries said he witnessed much of it.
“I remember an instance when he literally kicked the door down and dragged my mom out. I remember another instance where he was going through the phone bill and asking her questions about the phone bill and didn’t like some of the answers she gave him and struck my mom in front of me,” recalled Jeffries.
On November 25, 1985, after his mother went to work and promised they would go see Rocky IV that week, the volatile relationship between his mother and step-father turned deadly. Jeffries mother was gunned down by his step-father.
Jeffries, just 10 years old, along with his 6 month old sister returned to Newark, where eventually they were raised by their grandmother.
“That is the story of Newarkers. Raised by grandparents. Unfortunately, too many families touched by violence,” said Jeffries.
Jeffries believes The Boys and Girls Club on Hawthorne Avenue in Newark turned his life around.
“I was tapped on the shoulder and asked to fill out some paperwork and I filled it out and I got the scholarship,” said Jeffries.
That scholarship to Seton Hall Prep led Shavar Jeffries to Duke University, then Columbia Law, where he met his wife. The two have been married now for 11 years and live in the South Ward with their children.