Newark Shapes Music, Life of JaRich’s Jaleel Ritchwood Jordan

By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media

NEWARK – Jaleel Ritchwood Jordan’s first love is music, but the educator and mentor known by his stage name JaRich embraces it using his latest album to take account of himself and preparing himself for change.

JaRich’s latest album “Reflections” dropped last Friday on all streaming services. The first single from that release, “What Would I Do (Jam’s Anthem)” was available in advance.

Jordan is a son of Newark – born, raised and is now shaping the next generation as a teacher. He has used that edge of growing up in one of America’s toughest cities to shape not only his music, but his other artistic endeavors and reaching the young people he encounters on a day-to-day basis.

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His mixture of R&B, Soul and Gospel are deeply part of his roots. He said he wants his album to reflect not only where he’s been, but why he still believes in the future.

The Roots

“It tells a story from beginning to end of different seasons I had to go through and eventually get through or still making my way through,” Jordan said of his latest songs.  “It’s an album that made me sit still, take accountability for self, understand and make room for change to produce growth, and in order for me to have done that I need to reflect, hence the album’s title.”

Jordan, 28, teaches in the Newark Public School system. His book, “Through My Eyes,” is available on paperback and e-book form on Amazon. An actor and performing poet, he has been recognized for his work locally and internationally for his work in “A Raisin In the Sun” and recitation platform “Poetry Out Loud.”

Jaleel Jordan with fans with copies of his book, “Through My Eyes.” Photo courtesy of Jaleel Jordan

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Jordan credits the honing of his entertainment skills through church under the watchful eye of his grandmother Barbara Ritchwood Hill. Also an entrepreneur, Jordan said he will soon introduce a men’s fragrance line called “Discretion by JaRich.”

He was been recognized for his work professionally and educationally by Essex County Executive Joseph D. DiVincenzo’s Essex County Team Work Award for his contributions to the community and city.

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Jordan said his parents taught him the meaning of hard work and determination. They gave birth to him when they were both still teenagers, but that did not stop them from pouring everything they had into him to succeed.

Parental Guidance

“Although they had me in their teenage years I know the meaning of hard work and discipline because they had it and were doing it then, working two and three jobs at a time including hustling in the streets but that will power, that determination to give their son, me, more than they could have ever imagined meant more to them than anything and I’ve lived a beautiful life full of experiences, both good and bad because of them,” Jordan said.

JaRich performs on stage. Photo courtesy of Jaleel Jordan

“My grandmother, Frances Washington, whom I just lost this March due to Covid-19 was my heart, my biggest cheerleader and if I speak to much more on her I won’t be able to finish this but she’s the not only a part of the glue that has kept me together but she was the glue! My literal best friend. I love I never knew ran so deep until I didn’t have her no longer because I swear, I thought I’d have her longer so even in death I still learned because I realized even more so now (because I’ve now experienced it) why it’s so important to cherish and to love on your family! Be there, make amends, forgive, pick up the phone and check up on them, make that visit! It’s free and time is the greatest thing in life that when it’s passed it doesn’t return and we abuse it so unknowingly. 

Jordan touched on various topics with Front Runner New Jersey, about being educator today where there are so few African-American males, growing up and how young African-Americans are displaying incredible courage in the face of racism and injustice today.

Survival and Will

FRNJ: What was it like growing up in Newark?

Jaleel “JaRich” Jordan: Growing up in Newark taught me about survival and will! It exemplified all things Black but it also taught me that irregardless of how society may view us as a city, the stock we’re made of despite our community and individual efforts, whether good or bad, are built on core principles and learning to hunt and survive has always been our greatest superpower! I’m greater because my efforts in becoming the young man that I am, the educator I am, the servant I am, is because I come from a city of many people that look like me and when growing up most of my teachers or influencers looked like me and they didn’t cut me any slack! They pushed me, even in moments of frustration where giving up seemed to be the best option! They built and instilled character and in return, I was able to be my best me in school, whether in the literal school building or the school of life and it made me selfless because the same passion they exemplified for me and other Black and Brown students transferred to me and now I’m giving back in the same manner (as I’m a public school educator) but times are different so our children need more—more love, more of us taking leadership and more responsibility for their futures, leaving the choices they make up to them but equipping them with the tools necessary to make the right choices based off of logic, principle and having a conscience. 

FRNJ: What is it like being an educator today and being a role model for youth today as an African-American male?

Jaleel “JaRich” Jordan: My role as a teacher and being an example is more important than being a role model because more than looking up to you, I need one to take my examples, take my lessons and apply them as they see fit as to their Individual lives and that can mean as well, doing the opposite of me! I want children to be able to use their own minds to determine their life, giving them a voice to speak truth to power because in all reality, they don’t belong to us. We’re just the birth channel in which they passed through but they belong to God and way before I or anyone else has put an expectation on them their divine purpose for life was already established! We’re just gardeners nurturing. They can sprout whatever route and way they choose! It’s out of our reach after we’ve planted and watered the seed but that’s the first step, laying the foundation.

FRNJ: Where do you see yourself in five years?

Jaleel “JaRich” Jordan: In five years, I see myself being all over the world, internationally, singing my songs to audiences of all backgrounds and cultures and working towards solidifying my legacy and becoming “legendary”, and not only for my musical efforts but for my humanitarianism as I love to give back and also the founder of a non profit, Victim to Victor outreach which is a community faith based outreach geared towards the emotional, academic and spiritual needs of all persons through fundraising/donations with efforts in feeding the homeless and providing scholarships and resources for students in different targeted areas. In working towards those goals I’ll also continue my educational studies and efforts to take my administrative and leadership roles with the public school sector or building my own school with some of Newark’s and urban educations most passionate and gifted teachers—Black and Brown teachers! I learned our kids learn better when they can relate and it takes a special kind of teacher to be able to take a seat back and try to understand the students process of whatever the happenings are and then find the best possible solutions for them to channel that energy for good! 

FRNJ: Anything else you would like to add?

Jaleel “JaRich” Jordan: In times as such where social justice calls has grown louder, especially in recent times with George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the many before them due to police brutality and outright bigotry we’re learning and actually understanding pain from a different angle. A pain that has always been there but the needle is in the eye now! What young African Americans are displaying in these times are courage and a will to fight back but in that we see that they’re pained deeply and the constant cry out is that of wanted to be heard and seen! It’s simple! We’re HERE and we’re not going anywhere! They’re tired of being overlooked and in a land where you can’t even count on the law to protect and serve you, they’re afraid but being afraid is sometimes good because it triggers something in you to move and our young people are moving! Look at the number of protests that went on recently with George Floyd, a black man, and look at the number of rallies and people that came together from all over the world, not just this nation but the world and all because our young people made noise and wouldn’t let it up!

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