Fly Person of The Week: Shavar Jeffries


A fifth generation Newarker, Shavar Jeffries was raised by his grandmother, a public school teacher, in the city’s South Ward.


Shavar attended public schools for most of his life until he received a scholarship from the Boys and Girls Club of Newark to attend Seton Hall Preparatory School in West Orange, New Jersey.

Since 2004, Shavar has been an associate professor at the Center for Social Justice at Seton Hall Law School where he and his students primarily handle pro bono cases that will improve the quality of education for all Newark children. In this capacity, Shavar has represented 30,000 children denied free tutoring services under the No Child Left Behind Act, and advocated for thousands of Newark children seeking mandated special education services. In addition to these cases, Shavar also litigates important housing, domestic violence, economic justice, and immigration suits.

Q. Why run for mayor?

A. I am the person I am today because of the love and support of my family, neighbors and teachers in Newark. I want to give back to the city that has given me so much. Unfortunately today, crime has wreaked havoc on Newark. ​I remember when I was a kid, we used to look forward to the summer all winter long. It was the time when communities came alive…when on the weekends and in the evenings across this city people met outside, enjoyed the company of their neighbors and encouraged one another. Life — or at least the best parts of it — happened outside. That’s how I remember Newark, but today, we see a different reality. I want to be Mayor to pursue a sacred mission: To end the era ofNewark being defined by violence and begin an era of Newark being defined by opportunity, for every child and every person who calls this city home.​

In 2008, Shavar took a leave from Seton Hall Law School to serve as Assistant Attorney General and Counsel to New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram. In his role as the department’s third most senior official, Shavar lead several of the state’s largest departments, including the Juvenile Justice Commission and the Civil Rights Division. He re-launched the Civil Rights Division’s Affirmative Litigation Unit, reformed the Victims of Crime Compensation office, and crafted an executive order expanding procurement opportunities for women and minority businesses. He also supported the Attorney General in implementing the state’s crime plan, overseeing the team that, among other things, produced a 26% reduction in recidivism for ex-offenders.


Q. What do you believe is the most important issue facing Newarkers?

A. I’ve been knocking on doors and speaking with residents about my quest to be mayor for almost two years. By and large, their main issue is crime. My wife, Tenagne and I own a home in the South Ward of Newark where murders have increased by 70 percent in the last three years. We are raising our two beautiful children there. Their safety and future means so much to me.  That’s why I’m running for mayor. I want to make sure all of Newark’s children have safe streets to grow up on. But this isn’t something new for me. As the third highest ranking state assistant attorney general for the State of New Jersey under Gov. Jon Corzine; president of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Newark; a civil rights lawyers or president of the public school board, I’ve dedicated my life to fighting so that every child gets the chance that I got – and the chance they deserve.

In April 2010, Shavar was elected to the Newark Public Schools Advisory Board where he quickly emerged as a leader in expanding the number of high-quality public school options for all children. During his tenure as board president, Shavar increased the number of schools offering extended learning time from zero to over 20, and helped to open several new middle and high schools. Shavar also lead the board in joining a lawsuit that returned over $30 million to Newark after the state illegally cut the district budget, and also lead the board in filing suit to restore local control of the school system to Newark parents.

Q. When you aren’t trying to win the war on crime, what do you do for fun?

A. I love to just play with my children (Kaleb is 9; Naomi is 7). Kaleb loves sports so we toss around the football or watch basketball games together. Noami is a character. She writes her own stories and then reads them to me…or she likes me to make up a story and tell it to her. She’s really a one-woman show all by herself at such a young age. My wife and I like to take in a movie, go to a quiet dinner or enjoy a concert. She’s my best friend. Sometimes I just like sitting at home and reading a book. I haven’t been able to do that in a long time.

Shavar obtained his bachelor’s degree from Duke University where he served as president of the Black Student Alliance and as a member of the board of trustees. From there, Shavar attended Columbia Law School where he served as managing editor of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review and clerked for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund before graduating with several academic and public interest honors.


Following law school, Shavar clerked for Judge Nathaniel R. Jones of the U.S. Court of Appeals. He then worked as an associate with Wilmer Cutler & Pickering where he represented Black farmers who were denied farming loans by the federal government because of their race.

Since 2001, Shavar has been counsel at Gibbons P.C., a nationally ranked, leading law firm in New Jersey. He is a homeowner in the South Ward where he lives with his wife, Tenagne, and their two children, Kaleb and Naomi.

Shavar also closed out our interview on his favorite music. Check below to see what he had to say…

Q. What’s your favorite song?

A. I have lots of songs that I like, but I generally enjoy music in terms of lyrics and verse. I’m a child of the 80s so I enjoy old school rap…Big Daddy Kane, Eric B. & Rakim, Public Enemy…verses from those artists. But my all-time favorite is Nas’ verse in Verbal Intercourse. To date, I haven’t heard another verse so skillful and deep. I also respect Illmatic by Nas and can have an intellectual conversation about that CD for hours. I used to be able to rip 16 bars..but I’m dating myself.


From SFPL, we say congrats to Shavar on all of his accomplishments and good luck in the running!

Leave a Reply

Powered by

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: