Before we turn the page on February, let’s take one moment to again recognize Black History Month, in which countless celebrations are made for African Americans' cultural and political achievements nationwide. In New Jersey, so many local leaders continue to take positive steps forward to combat ongoing challenges. So as February comes to an end, we would like to recognize just a few of our local African American leaders who are making history today with innovative approaches and initiatives, as well as policies for all of New Jersey's communities.
In 1970, Kenneth Gibson became the first African-American Mayor of a Northeastern city when he was elected Mayor of Newark. Today that legacy continues to be advanced by Mayor Ras Baraka. Since his election in 2014, Mayor Baraka has advanced initiatives to address water quality as a result of aging lead piping throughout the city, most recently with the Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan introduced by the Biden-Harris Administration. Newark is New Jersey's biggest municipality, with a population of over 280,000 and over half of the residents being minorities. Mayor Baraka has also championed literacy efforts and focused on economic development and redevelopment. He continues to be a trailblazer who changes lives and communities.
Another groundbreaking local leader Ted Green, Mayor of East Orange, has been active in his community for over 25 years. Mayor Green has led efforts resulting in the lowering of the crime rate in a short period of time as well as, creating, and leading a widely known community clean-up group called "Mayor on the Block." Mayor Green sponsored many initiatives that helped his community.
League Past President and Past President of the Urban Mayors Association, Mayor Albert Kelly, governs what he calls "The Great City of Bridgeton." In 2010 he became Bridgeton’s first black mayor. Mayor Kelly is very supportive of the educational needs of youths and interacts with the community tirelessly. His support for the state's municipalities has been more than apparent as he has made many appearances for multiple community causes, including addressing food deserts and voting rights.
Also making history as the first black female to be elected mayor in Chesilhurst Borough, is Mayor Jamila Odom Bremmer. After being recruited by former Mayor Michael Blunt, Jamila Bremmer leads her community by focusing on some of the town's most significant projects which include combating hunger, bringing in new businesses, active advocating for structural changes, creating more youth activities, and aggressive community improvement. Because of her hard work, in 2020, she received the Candance Women of Achievement award from the National Coalition of 100 Black Women of Southern New Jersey Chapter. The award is given annually to women of minority descent to honor their contributions to society.
So, as we honor the pioneers of the past, we also honor the efforts of all minority-led communities establishing sustainability and resilience 365 days a year. As such, Black history is not only recognized in February as history is also being made every day.
Communities in the Garden State have flourished and strived thanks to State and local officials dedicating their time to years of public service for New Jersey and its municipalities. We applaud all members, political leaders, and former elected officials for their timeless commitment.
Contact: Ciara Bradley, Legislative Analyst, CBradley@njlm.org, 609-695-3481 x128