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‘All year long’

The Pan-African flag was raised in front of city hall on Juneteenth in 2020 in Bayonne. Photo courtesy of Black in Bayonne.
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The Pan-African flag was raised in front of city hall on Juneteenth in 2020 in Bayonne. Photo courtesy of Black in Bayonne.

Black in Bayonne, a local activist organization in the city, has been promoting local Black culture and prominent residents of color all year long, especially during Black History Month in February and Women’s History Month in March.

Celebrating Black history

During Black History Month, the organization highlighted the various aspects of Black culture in Bayonne through a social media campaign during February. The organization payed homage to Black churches in the city, including Angelic Baptist Church, Wallace Temple AME Zion Church, Friendship Baptist Church, Evangelical Gospel Tabernacle, New Zion Baptist Church, Purnell Temple, and Faith and Victory Deliverance of God.

Additionally, Black in Bayonne highlighted Black educators and coaches that have had an impact on the community, among them Jane Roberts, Johnathon Thomas, Jacqueline Miles, and Matthew Allen among others.

Black in Bayonne also called out phrases that Black people in the city have often heard and encouraged them to no longer tolerate it. The phrases included: “These actions do not reflect all the citizens of Bayonne,” and “The cops in Bayonne stop everyone,” as well as other examples.

Other initiatives during the month involved celebrating Black hair and sharing important resources with the Black community, such as how to get vaccinated.

Black women matter

During Women’s History Month, similar efforts continue, this time to highlight and uplift women, especially Black women.

Black in Bayonne has been amplifying stories and educating the public of Black women that have been wronged by society or that have been prominent in the community. This included Stephanie Glover-Wilson of Hunger Free Unity in the Community and Jaye Wilson of Melinated Moms among others.

“As Malcom X said: “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman” and we want to make sure that they are always celebrated,” High said.

Black in Bayonne has already been advocating for womanhood since its inception, having held a candlelit vigil last summer in 16th Street Park for Breonna Taylor and all women of color lost to violence. Prior to both celebratory months, the organization had promoted nearly every Black-owned business in the city through its “Buy Black Bayonne” initiative in January.

Daily representation

According to Black in Bayonne co-founder Camille High, the idea behind the initiatives is that everyone should be represented on a daily basis. In an interview with the Bayonne Community News, High said that as development occurs within the city, the Black and Brown population is growing.

High said that representation matters and that Black in Bayonne aims to provide good representation of the growing community by showing off Black excellence every single day. Black in Bayonne has been doing this since its inception, encouraging residents to support and celebrate Black people and culture more than just during Black History Month or in the wake of a racist incident.

In the seven months since Black in Bayonne first formed following the Power in the Park peaceful protest in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, High said that she makes sure that everyday Black in Bayonne is highlighting Black excellence.

“Being Black is historic every day,” High said. “Being Black in Bayonne is something to be highlighted, so why should we just be subjected to a month?”

High said it’s important that the Black people already in the city as well as those coming into Bayonne don’t just exist here, but are infused into the local culture. These efforts come at a vital time, as Bayonne deals with a slew of racist incidents in recent months and its past history of racism.

Shining a light on the community

“Being Black in Bayonne needs to be celebrated and if we can shine light on that then we’ve done our job,” High said. “When we highlight the various people within our community, we’re giving hope to those young people that don’t understand what it means to be Black or those who are on the fence of whether they should be celebrating their Blackness.”

High always makes sure to acknowledge the Black people in the city who came before Black in Bayonne and have already been doing the work for the  local community. She said that Black in Bayonne, other new activist groups and young people in the city are working to change the local Black experience from “non-existent” and “subtle” to loud and proud.

“That’s how you celebrate black excellence on a daily basis, highlighting it every day, making sure the message is very clear: ‘You are not just existing here, you are here. We are seeing your hurt and we want to celebrate you,'” High said.

High said Black in Bayonne’s efforts to highlight the Black community and culture started last year with the Juneteenth Flag Raising at City Hall. It was the first time the Pan-African flag was raised in Bayonne, and High said that “passing by City Hall and seeing that flag there meant a lot.”

According to High, the flag raising, one of the organizations first events after Power in the Park, set a precedent of Black culture in Bayonne and let people in the city know that the Black community is here.

With the one year anniversary of Black in Bayonne’s founding on the horizon, the organization looks to continue promoting Black culture and excellence every day. For more information, go online to blackinbayonne.com or to Black in Bayonne’s  social media pages.

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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