Vigil remembers victims, honors survivors, and pushes for domestic violence policy

Black in Bayonne continues to be at the forefront of social action in the community

Members of the public and Bayonne city officials alike came out to a candlelight vigil held by Black in Bayonne before the City Council meeting on March 16. The vigil was dubbed “Unity in the Community,” meant to remember victims, honor survivors, and push for policy in regards to domestic violence.

The vigil remembered Mely Vanessa Tafoya Mendoza, a 33-year-old Bayonne woman who was murdered by her husband in early March. The purpose of the event was also to show support for a resolution proposed by City Council President and mayoral candidate Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski that allocates $25,000 in American Rescue Plan funding to support “educational, intervention, and outreach programs to combat the issue of domestic violence.” Additionally, Mayor James Davis has also formed a Domestic Violence and Mental Health Task Force.

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The co-founders of Black in Bayonne led the community through the solemn vigil. Camille High addressed the crowd while Clarice High and Shaniqua Borders helped light candles and Rashad Callaway held a sign that said “Respect Women Worldwide.”

“We appreciate everyone coming out for this serious cause, and we appreciate the City of Bayonne for highlighting domestic violence,” said High. “We’re breaking the silence tonight. We’re not doing this just for the people that are here, but for the people that might not be able to speak up. Since we have brought this to light, a lot of people have been writing in saying that they need support and they didn’t know where to go. That stops today.”

According to High, more people will now have access or information regarding the services they need. She thanked Mayor Davis, Ashe-Nadrowski, and Assemblyman William Sampson as well as the other officials, and everyone for coming out to show their support.

“I want to thank everyone that is here,” High said. “This is what happens when we use our voices collectively. Things happen, things change. If we remain silent, you would still have people that are dealing with these issues.”

Camille High of Black in Bayonne helped put the vigil together with Women Rising and Sarah’s Daughters Domestic Violence Awareness.

Domestic violence affects everyone

Margaret Adams, Coordinator of the Domestic Violence Response Team for WomenRising in Hudson County, spoke briefly about domestic violence and read a touching poem on the matter.

“I offer my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Vanessa, as well as the Bayonne community,” Adams said. “Domestic violence doesn’t just impact that one family, it trickles down into the community. I just want to offer my deepest condolences to everybody and thank everybody for being here because with support, you’re showing victims and survivors of domestic violence that you’re here, you believe them, and you’re here to support them. So I thank each and every one of you for that.”

Adams then read “I Got Flowers Today” by Paulette Kelly. Following that, she further described how domestic violence affects everyone.

Each day, an average of three women die at the hands of someone who claims to love them,” Abrams said. “Domestic violence thrives in silence. We need to highlight the fact that domestic violence can happen to anyone and is more prevalent than people realize. People believe that ‘not in my community, not here in Bayonne.’ With one in four women and one in seven men experiencing domestic violence in their lifetime, everyone is likely to know someone who has been affected by this issue. Domestic violence is everywhere affecting millions of individuals across the United States, regardless of age, economic status, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or educational status.” According to Abrams, domestic violence has been viewed as a private family matter for far too long. 

Team Ashe-Nadrowski poses with community advocates. From left to right: Bayonne Board of Education President Maria Valado, “KT” Kim Torello, City Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski, Patricia Jackson of Sarah’s Daughters Domestic Violence Awareness, Board of Education Trustee Jodi Casais, Rashad Callaway of Black in Bayonne, George Vinc, and Julie Sanchez Lynch.

Services available in Bayonne

Abrams highlighted the WomenRising hotline and available services at 201-333-5700. She also thanked the community for coming together to send a message about domestic violence. 

Abrams continued: “Domestic violence is not strictly physical abuse, although we can see the bruises, but can include emotional, financial, verbal, psychological, sexual, spiritual and digital abuse. Domestic violence affects all of us: victims, survivors or our families, our neighbors, our coworkers, our friends. All of us must be a part of this solution, we all have a personal responsibility to break that silence. Community accountability can make a significant impact… Let’s start to normalize informed conversations about domestic violence and mental health. These discussions will help other to understand the dynamics of abuse, learn about the services available, and grow support systems.”

Following that, Vice President of Sarah’s Daughters Domestic Violence Awareness Patricia Jackson also addressed the community, noting the organization served Bayonne.

“We supervise mothers, daughters, and some men also,” Jackson said. “We are here to help you anytime you need us.”

Sarah’s Daughters Domestic Violence Awareness can be reached at 201-688-6794. A moment of silence was held for those lost to domestic violence, including Tafoya Mendoza, as well as those who are still fighting and need empowerment.

Mely Vanessa Tafoya Mendoza

Remembering Vanessa

High then gave some information about Tafoya Mendoza. She was originally from Imperial, California, and leaves behind her daughters, eight-year-old Alexa and nine-year-old Ari.

“Two little girls were left victims to this crime,” High said. “It would be great if you can assist the family. They need the services.”

A GoFundMe fundraiser set up by High can found online at gofundme.com/f/help-bury-vanessa, and another fundraiser for the daughters at gofundme.com/f/contributions-for-vanes-girls. High added that Tafoya Mendoza was a social worker herself, hitting even closer to home.

“Vanessa was a case manager, she did this work,” High said. “The very work that we do can kill us. So I’m asking that you are here and you to do the work… Because we decided to speak up, we have a resolution that will be in place tonight and we also have a Domestic Violence and Mental Health Task Force.”

High concluded the vigil: “While the candles may go out, this message lasts forever.”

From left to right: Assemblyman William Sampson, Shaniqua Borders of Black in Bayonne, Patricia Jackson of Sarah’s Daughters Domestic Violence Awareness, and Mayor James Davis.

Later at the meeting, there was a presentation from Abrams outlining the issue of domestic violence. Afterward, the aforementioned resolution passed unanimously, with Ashe-Nadrowski, who sponsored it, applauding the move. 

“This is Women’s History Month. We always want to celebrate women. We also must remember the challenges that they face also that still exist. We all need to do a better job of empowering women, supporting women, and lifting each other up.  

High asked about when the funds could be dispersed to the community, to which Ashe-Nadrowski said she would work with Chief Financial Officer Donna Mauer to set up necessary applications immediately. She added this was just a start, and that the amount could be increased in the next several months following the success of the program. 

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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