Saturday, August 15, 2020

Hillside’s BLM Mural Paintings and BLM Committee Continues the Movement

From left to right: Council Vice President George Cook, Councilman Craig Epps,  Freeholder Angela Garretson, and Councilman Chis Mobley


Union County, N.J. ----- The Union County Freeholder Board sponsored the
placement of the Hillside Black Lives Matter mural on Liberty Avenue in Hillside,
on August 13, 2020, the same day that honored the 100th anniversary of the Red,
Black and Green (RBG) flag – the flag that represents numerous black
organizations and movements since the civil rights era.

Freeholder Angela Garretson was on site with Hillside Council Vice President
George Cook, Councilman Craig Epps, Councilman Chris Mobley, and
Councilwoman Andrea Hyatt to witness a historic mural painting by the county
that also included the RBG flag in recognition of its anniversary (1920 -2020), and
the flag is still used widely today.

Local residents and onlookers captured the historic painting of the mural, as
residents of all ages joined in the effort to paint Black Lives Matter and the RBG
flag, on one of the most travelled streets, Liberty Avenue, near the railroad tracks
that residentially segregated the community of Hillside starting in the late 60s
when the first black families moved into the township. Hillside Councilman Cook,
Epps and Mobley were part of the effort to engage Union County Freeholders in
the mural project.

Councilman Craig Epps, said: “As a part of the leadership of the BLM committee in
Hillside, I am committed to bringing informative actions to Hillside and when I was
contacted by a local group, I reached out to the county to see how to get this
done for Hillside”

During this heighten time period of BLM actions around the county, and nation,
local communities of all sizes are addressing race and racial justice issues, and the
BLM committee in Hillside have council members that established a council
appointed, civilian review board as an exploratory committee, and named a
portion of the street BLM Way near town hall.

Council Vice President Cook, a Hillside resident for over 40 years , said: “The BLM
mural and the upcoming street signs is a sign that the times are changing for ourentire community. The location of the mural is symbolic for many generations of
Black residents who remember that Black kids weren't supposed to be on the
other side of the train tracks or the bridge after a certain time. The street sign will
also memorialize our township believes in racial justice for all.”

Democratic Chairman Anthony Salters of Hillside another committee member
helped to organize the BLM march – with a purpose to end racism, police brutality
and embrace diversity, that was attended by Governor Murphy, Senator Cryan,
Assembly members, Mayor Vertreese and Council, Freeholders, Schoolboard
members, clergy and religious communities, a professional educator sorority, and
numerous Panhellenic members. The massive crowd was filled with residents and
supporters of all ages and representatives from all over on June 7.

Freeholder Angela Garretson, a resident of Hillside, said: “The mural painted truly
culminates so many actions by my colleagues from various levels of government,
and although the railroad tracks in the past created dividing racial lines, the black
community and our community of allies who support our efforts strengthen me
to unify, strategize and advance against racism and discriminatory practices, in all
aspects of society. Some actions can be like a sprint, but more work, will be a

Mrs. Alyssa LaMonaco of Kenilworth was a former resident and student in
Hillside, was the local artist and her parents, including, Hillside Education
Association President Angela Lawler, Dewanna Johnson, HEA, VP, were joined by
Hillside School Board President, Kimberly Cook to paint the first mural in the
township on the high school driveway, prior to the Juneteenth flag raising
ceremony and George Floyd 8:46 Observation. The board of education members,
also members of the BLM committee in Hillside, have taken the lead to rename
buildings that reflect the present society, including the Deanna Taylor Academy,
was Calvin Coolidge and Ola Edwards Community School, was the George
Washington Elementary Schools.

Councilman Chris Mobley, said: “The times are changing in our diverse
community. We are part of organizations and committees addressing racial
injustices, and similar to the numerous efforts during the civil rights era, and now
the black lives matter work that takes on many forms, like in our town, we know
the good news is that this work can create lasting actions.”

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