Essex County Freeholders Celebrate African-American History Month

Vice President Brendan Gill (right) reads the Board’s plaque and Commendation honoring Orange Councilmember Adrienne Wooten ( BY GLEN FRIESON )
(Newark, NJ) – The Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders held its 2017 African-American History Month Celebration recognizing excellence on Wednesday, February 22, 2017, at the Hall of Records. The ceremony commemorated the heritage, culture, resilience, and spirit of the African-American community. The ceremony was followed by a catered reception. 
Freeholder Britnee N. Timberlake began the program with opening remarks, sharing her joy in recognizing the African American community in Essex County, especially for the contributions African-Americans have made and continue to make today. She explained that it is important to celebrate these contributions, to know and understand African-American history, and to pass this history to the next generation. 
Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura offered remarks on behalf of Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, Jr., sharing the importance of the African-American community and accentuating numerous contributions African-Americans have made to the City of Newark and Essex County. 
This year’s honorees included: Assemblywoman Blonnie R. Watson of Newark, Councilmember Adrienne Wooten of Orange, Calvin W. Souder, Esq., of Newark, Reverend Vernon Carle Miller of Maplewood, Mayor Robert David Jackson of Montclair, The Honorable William Payne of Newark, Don Viapree of Piscataway, Lawrence Hamm of Montclair, East Orange Councilmember Ted R. Green, and Reverend Arnold Fox of Union. 
The Board honored Assemblywoman Blonnie R. Watson who currently serves in the New Jersey General Assembly representing District 29. However, she previously served on the Essex County Freeholder Board from 1994 to 2014, as a Freeholder At-Large, Freeholder Vice President, and Freeholder President. As a Freeholder, she spearheaded the County’s Prescription Card Program, Essex County’s disparity study resulting in the formation of Essex County’s Small Business and Affirmative Action Department, and the  Code Blue Initiative to aid the County’s homeless population during extreme weather conditions. In partnership with the County Executive, Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr., and his Administration, she was at the forefront of numerous significant projects in Essex County, such as the Historic Courthouse Restoration, 911 Memorial at Eagle Rock Reservation, AA bond rating and state-of-the-art county facilities. Assemblywoman Watson was elected in 1968 to serve on the Board of Directors of High Park Gardens Cooperative Corporation, a housing development in Newark’s Central Ward, where she served on the Board and as its President. She also served for many years as a Board member for the National Association of Housing Cooperatives and as an independent housing consultant. She resides in Newark with her husband, Lewis, and they have two adult daughters, Deborah Jones and Charon Motayne. 
Councilmember Adrienne Wooten joined the City Council of Orange Township in 2016 where she serves as the Council’s liaison to the Housing Authority. Although she is new to the City Council, she is not new to community involvement. She started her career in the private sector as a member of Marriott International Hotel’s management team where she consistently exceeded the Marriott Gold standard for service and programming for guests and conferees. Later, she transitioned from corporate America to the public sector and became a teacher at Oakwood Avenue School, preparing rigorous curriculums in language arts for 5th and 6th grade students. As a public servant, Councilmember Wooten served on the City of Orange Township’s Citizens’ Budget Advisory Committee in 2010. In 2012, she also served as Democratic County Committee person in Orange, District 4, where she diligently worked to elect Democratic candidates to public office and assist in the promotion and development of good government on the National, State, County, and Municipal levels. Councilmember Wooten and her family live in the East Ward where they continue to be a part of the Oakwood  Avenue School family. Her goal is to improve the health of the community by emphasizing prevention, environmental control, health promotion, and education.
During the event Reverend Doctor Joseph Oniyama from Calvary Baptist Church in East Orange presented the opening and closing prayers. In addition, Jamilex Calle, Shayla Lopez, and Antonella Rodriguez from the Essex County West Caldwell Technical Vocational Vocal Ensemble performed under the direction of Performing Arts Teacher Mr. Mark Beckett. Mater Kazier Thomas, a student at Abbington Avenue School in Newark, gave an oral presentation the audience was favored with that won him 1st place at the Alpha Phi Alpha, Fraternity, Incorporated (Alpha Alpha Lambda Chapter), Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Oratorical Contest. In honor of the celebration, he spoke about the fulfillment of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream in 2017. 
For Additional Information: 
Medinah E. Muhammad, Public Information Officer 
Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders 
465 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., 
Newark, New Jersey, 07102