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The Black community gets behind ‘Give Thanks Bayonne’

The aim is to feed the hungry

Camille High (far end of the table) addresses Black leaders at a Nov. 4 meeting.

To support those in need of food assistance for Thanksgiving, “Give Thanks Bayonne” distributed uncooked meals and hot plates of food to hundreds of local families.

The Bayonne Community News caught up with cofounder of Black in Bayonne Camille High.

Coming together

Black in Bayonne gathered a majority of the Black-owned organizations, nonprofits, and businesses in the city on Nov. 4. During the meeting, the various groups agreed that they needed to work as a collective to do something for the community.

High noted that with the surge of COVID-19 cases, the need for food assistance is dire. With just two weeks until Thanksgiving, Black in Bayonne and other organizations set out to plan how they could feed families in need.

The effort included the Bayonne Youth Center, Bridge Art Gallery, Dimentman Law Group, Little BoHo Bookshop, NAACP Bayonne, United We Change, Bakery Bro!, Bayonne Batter, Innovative Education Consulting Services, Flournoy Gethers VFW Post #7470, Pride of Bayonne Lodge #461, Pride of Bayonne Temple #266, Omega Lodge No. 60, Studio 31 Music School, Joy Full Zone, BCB Community Bank and the Bayonne Police Department.

The Bayonne Youth Center, home to the longest running Black program in Bayonne, was the fiscal sponsor of the event, which aimed to bring attention to the 75-year-old center.

Feeding the hungry

Ingredients for Thanksgiving meals were given out the Sunday before the holiday.

Their efforts become became known as “Give Thanks Bayonne,” with a goal of feeding 200 families.

Each participating organization was given a certain number of slots for families in need, with one slot for each family. Families who fit the need and those who were interested were given a slot to receive the ingredients to cook a full Thanksgiving meal.

Individuals could also register for for a single hot meal. The meals were distributed on Nov. 22.

They fed 355 families. Some families were from Jersey City, and leftover food was donated to a homeless shelter in Hoboken, technically making the event Give Thanks Hudson County, High said.

High said that funding came from everywhere as residents donated to the cause. According to High, many Black and Brown organizations worked as a unit to help Black and Brown people in Bayonne. 

“Give Thanks Bayonne served everyone who needed food,”  High said. “Not even just Black and Brown people, just people period.”

Bayonne came together for the distribution. Residents receiving the meals were thankful that somebody was willing to do something for them.

High said that getting rental assistance is the next hurdle

According to High, a lot of families will be faced with eviction following the expiration of the statewide moratorium on evictions. This will increase the number of homeless residents in the city.

Defining homelessness

According to High, more than 998 families are considered homeless in Bayonne.

The group wanted to define the term because a lot of people don’t understand what homelessness is, High said.

“It can look like a family who got displaced because of COVID, and now they’re living with another family,” High said. “It could look like your neighbor who you assume everything is okay but it’s really not.”

She continued: “People think that homelessness is just somebody that’s out on the street, and that’s it. No. Homelessness can be any one of us. People just functioning through everyday society, and you don’t know.”

High said that homelessness “could be defined as people living below the poverty line,” who are “making just enough to provide for their family.”

“Homelessness looks like everyday people who are not able to provide,” High said. “Homelessness is not just a person that doesn’t have a home. There’s some people that may live at home, are functional, part of day-to-day society, and they can’t provide for themselves the way they want to, or the way they should because of what’s going on right now. People are losing their jobs every day, every minute.”

High said there are a number of resources for the homeless in Bayonne, many of which helped contribute to Give Thanks Bayonne’s food distribution. They include the Bayonne Economic Opportunity Foundation, Hunger Free Unity in the Community, the Bayonne Food Bank, WomenRising, and the Bayonne Housing Authority.

Buy Black Bayonne

“Give Thanks Bayonne” with members of the Bayonne Police Department who helped with the food distribution.

Black in Bayonne wants to do something for the community around Christmas, following CDC guidelines, but has not yet worked out the details.

Meanwhile, it will promote local Black-owned businesses during he holidays and all year long.

Each day, a business will be featured on the Black in Bayonne social media pages on Instagram and Facebook under its “Buy Black Bayonne” initiative.

By promoting these establishments, High hopes to attract more Black and Brown businesses to the city. She said that if one person was inspired by theirs efforts, then Black in Bayonne has done its job.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.

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