The originally named Newark Community Meditation Center (NCMC) was established as an informal initiative in May of 2012 by Marcie Barth and Cornelia Santschi, both long time meditators. In fact, they met each other sitting on meditation cushions in 2003 where after the meditation session was over they silently turned to each other and smiled — a by-product of a good meditation! As is often a natural reaction to meditation, the urge in their practice was eventually to engage in compassionate action. Their meditation insights led them both to becoming integral in global humanitarian organizations. Focusing on humanitarian work for a few years neither had become a member of any particular meditation community. Inspired to merge their meditation practice with social engagement and activism, this time on a local level, they collaborated to co-create a meditation community within a currently under-served region. They chose Newark.
The first step was to introduce ourselves and help share and expose meditation to the community. Our very first supporter was the director of Index Art Center (IAC), Lowell Craig, who generously offered use of space at the center at its old location on Broad Street. We started with just monthly meditation sessions, on occasion with just a couple of us sitting amidst the art exhibit.
In early 2013 we met Keven Porter, through a mutual connection, a producer of a prisoner meditation film. He is a committed meditator who frequently goes on month-long vipassana (insight) retreats and he became NCMC’s first avid supporter and community liaison along with his meditation buddy, Corinna Sharrief. Arelís Hernandez, married to Keven and also a meditator, then began to support NCMC without hesitation as a way to serve the community.
In June of 2013, after a fire displaced IAC, NCMC started to do bi-monthly and gradually weekly sessions at City Without Walls. It was there that we met Kamilah Crawley, a public health professional, who had been studying a wide array of spiritual texts for many years but who had just recently started a meditation practice. She then introduced us to her uncle Muhammed, who though not a meditator, was well-versed in all things spiritual and believed in what we were doing. He gave us a generous donation enabling us to partially purchase our first meditation cushions — a small but important milestone. With these supplies, we were able to begin our quarterly retreats, usually being held at IAC in it’s new location on Washington Street.
We met Greg Thompson, an insight meditator, passionate about having a meditation center in Newark, who enthusiastically became engaged and was important in helping us make connections. We were then introduced to the twosome Ihsaan Muhammad and Andrea Lee, both active in a local yogic community and engaged in social justice.
In early 2016 Arelís, Kamilah, Andrea, and Ihsaan agreed to become founding members of a start-up non-profit organization, with Keven accepting the invitation after enthusiastic prompting in early 2017.
In late 2016, we invited Ib’nallah S. Kazi, a tai-chi and meditation teacher, to be a spiritual advisor, lead teacher, and founding member at NCMC. Knowing Kazi since mid 2014 and working with him for well over a year, we quickly gained confidence in his knowledge, skill level, effectiveness, and commitment. His accepting the invitation completed the necessary requisite to be able to begin the process of formally establishing a meditation center.
So it was that at the end of 2016 we ended the inititative of Newark Community Meditation Center. Our founding members agreed on the name of Newark Center for Meditative Culture for the non-profit organization that began its formation at the beginning of 2017. Using this name allowed us to keep the familiar nickname of NCMC that was used as an initiative. The new name connotes a more clear picture of the holistic approach to leading a meditative life. In mid-2017 NCMC became formally established as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
NCMC Founding Board of Directors
Marcie L. Barth is currently engaged primarily with non-profit organizations, making use of her planning, creative, and organizing skills along with her understanding of meditation and social engagement. She is Co-founder and Chairperson of Newark Center for Meditative Culture in Newark, NJ. She is a founding board member and Secretary of Buddhist Global Relief, a hunger relief organization. She is also a freelancer. Up until recently she has worked as a graphic designer and art director with decades of experience that included her role as partner in the award-winning design and marketing firm Barth and Co. Marcie also served for two years on the board of Flowering Lotus Meditation & Retreat Center in Mississippi. For several years she helped plan and coordinate educational programs, events, and retreats for the Yin Shun Foundation in New Jersey. She is a mentor in a correspondence course for prisoners with the Buddhist Association of the United States in New York.
Marcie began her inquiry into both still and moving meditation in 1998 with a focus on tai-chi. In 2001 she began to commit her training to tranquility, insight, and loving-kindness meditation and the ongoing study of Buddhist philosophy and psychology. She has been fortunate to study and practice with Master Teachers. Her practice bridges both Theravada and Mahayana traditions along with working through other spiritual, secular, and conventional means. She has helped compile and edit Dharma books. Her personal passion is to maintain, develop, and promote intentional living as best as she is able through her practices of mindfulness, meditation, teaching, and social justice. These efforts include conscientious consumption, the right to food and shelter, non-discrimination, protecting our children, and protecting our environment. Marcie always leaves time for free-play, family, and friends. For more biography details go to her LinkedIn Page.
• Along with being Co-founder/Chair of NCMC, Marcie develops programs and is a meditation instructor with NCMC.
Kamilah Crawley is a Certified Health Education Specialist with over 10 years of experience planning and implementing sexuality and health education workshops and trainings for students, parents, community groups, teachers, and professionals. Over the years, she has implemented several evidenced-based HIV and Pregnancy prevention interventions and provided individual educational counseling utilizing both client-centered and risk reduction skills. Currently, Kamilah works for the Children’s Hospital of NJ at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center as a Program Coordinator. She provides pregnancy prevention education and counseling and coordinates and develops health and wellness programs for their School-Based Youth Services Program in Newark. She received her B.S. in Public Health from Temple University and her Master of Public Health from the Rutgers School of Public Health. Kamilah began her meditation practice in 2014 with her first weekend residential retreat in 2016.
• Kamilah is a meditation group peer-leader and presenter with NCMC.
Arelís Hernandez is a Licensed Professional Counselor and graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University. She also practices as an Ayurvedic Lifestyle Coach in Newark, having completed extensive study courses at the School of Ayurveda and Pancahkarma in Kerala, India. She is an urban farmer and co-founder of Rabbit Hole Urban Farm Newark. Arelís is a Certified Yoga Instructor in the area as well.
• Arelís plans retreat meals and instructs in eco-living at NCMC.
Ib’nallah S. Kazi (Kazi) is a Las Vegas-based spiritual wellness coach, medicine movement, and meditation teacher, born in Panama and raised in New York City. He graduated from Adelphi University in 1981 with a BA in Psychology. Following careers in human services, public education and public health in the New York City area, he then placed an emphasis on wellness and personal development through his own program, presently known as The Spirit-Centered Life. As a spirit-centered wellness coach, he gently guides wellness seekers through the process of integrating the medicinal forces inherent in our Heavenly (spiritual), Human (social) and Earthly (natural) environments. Kazi has had a committed meditation practice for over 30 years and applies many disciplines. This includes Taoist, Sufi and Ancestral Meditation Medicine, having become an Ancestral Meditation Medicine Initiate through the Center for Ancestral Meditation Medicine taught by Brother Ishma’el Jamal.
Kazi has built a diverse education and training. His adolescent rites of passage began in 1974 when he became a Five Percenter, a splinter group from the Nation of Islam. It was during this period of his life that he developed a deep interest in wholistic health, social justice and what came to be known as transpersonal psychology and its implications for the esoteric and mystical dimensions of religion-spirituality.
Along with his friend and hiking partner Sala Nolan, Kazi founded the Harriet Tubman Hiking Society in 1988 to expose the African-American community to the strengthening, healing and spiritually grounding benefits of immersion in nature. The society offered guided day hikes and weekend backpacking retreats in NY and NJ forest and preserves.
Through the mid to late 1990s he developed his internal martial medicine skills, beginning with his training in Tai-Chi Chuan, in 1994 as a student of Master Yusef Bey. Concurrently he was trained in Yara Mba, a perpetual-motion form likened to a physical jazz that borrows from aikido and African dance. He also studied herbal and meridian medicine with Yara’s creator, Professor Milford Graves of the International Center for Medicinal and Scientific Studies.
In the early to mid 2000s he integrated fitness training and massage, becoming a Certified Health-Fitness Instructor in 2001 from the Academy of Applied Personal Training Education, Hofstra University and a Certified Massage Therapist in 2004 from the Institute of Therapeutic Massage, University of Medicine and Dentistry Newark. He also became certified in Royal Thai Medical Massage by Maria Pattane-Seidman in Florida.
Kazi became an Intrinsic Coach through Intrinsic Solutions, International, developers of a system of coaching through intrinsic, extrinsic and systematic valuing, which provided a dynamic framework for guiding clients through the process of self-healing via self-knowing.
• Kazi was until 2017 based in Newark NJ for 13 years where he remains on the Board of Directors of Newark Center for Meditative Culture, serving as a Spiritual Advisor and Lead Teacher.
Saraswati Andrea Lee is a senior disciple of Reverend Jaganath Carrera, Spiritual Head and Founder of Yoga Life Society. Under his direction she is completing seminary training to become Yoga Life Minister in 2018. She is a certified Yoga instructor and performs Kirtan with Mirabai Catherine Moon. She is a Preschool Assistant Teacher at Montclair Cooperative School in her hometown of Montclair, NJ.
• Andrea serves as the Treasurer of NCMC where she presents on meditation and mindfulness and instructs Yoga and chanting sessions for retreats.
Ihsaan R. Muhammad graduated from Rutgers Law School and has been until recently a practicing lawyer. Still retaining his law certification, he is now a branding and marketing communications consultant at his own company IHSAAN Marketing. Born and raised in Newark, he leads drum circles there and in the surrounding area. He is also active in a local yogic community.
• Ihsaan serves as the Secretary of NCMC where he also leads drum circles and makes community presentations on mindfulness.
Keven Porter has been a yoga instructor for several years after having studied at the Yoga Institute in Mumbai, India. He is also a children’s meditation course teacher in the vipassana tradition of S.N. Goenka. He has completed a study program on ayurvedic nutrition and yoga therapy at the School of Ayurveda and Panchkarma in Kerala, India. He is Director of Rabbit Hole Urban Farm in Newark. Keven also served as a board member of Eyes Like Mine in Newark where he instructed a Yoga for Your Eyes class. He is a licensed massage therapist. Keven and his wife are both committed yogis serving this community.
• Keven is a community liaison and sits for NCMC.
Cornelia Santschi is currently studying in the Community Dharma Leader Program (CDL5) through Spirit Rock and Insight Meditation Society to become a meditation teacher. She is Co-founder of NCMC. She has been a vipassana (insight) meditator and dedicated student of Buddhist psychology for over 15 years. She is the director of Neuro-psychology at the Institute for Neurology in NJ, and founder/director of Anatta World Health & Education Outreach, a grassroots non-profit that creates and supports medical and educational programs in developing countries.
• Cornelia is a meditation teacher and insight community liaison for NCMC.