2023 Black History Month

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The Union County Board of County Commissioners is pleased to announce that the annual Chester Holmes Humanitarian Award will be conferred upon the President of Kean University, Dr. Lamont O. Repollet, Ed. D., in a ceremony at the Union County Performing Arts Center at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday evening, January 31. The Performing Arts Center is located at 1601 Irving Street in Rahway.

The award presentation is part of a celebratory evening in honor of Black History Month presented by the Commissioner Board, featuring a live performance of Langston & Beethoven: Black & Proud created and performed with musical guests by WQKR radio host Terrance McKnight.

Admission to the event is free of charge and open to all the public. Online registration is suggested to save a seat, at ucnj.org/black-history-month.

“Dr. Repollet exemplifies all that we honor in our community as someone who is continuously breaking barriers in education. Dr. Repollet was the first African American President for Kean, as well as the first African American Commissioner of Education of the State of New Jersey,” said Union County Commissioner Chairman Sergio Granados. “He is someone that embraces inclusion, diversity and social learning and his efforts to make higher education available, achievable and affordable to all contributes to the spirit of the Chester Holmes Humanitarian Award.”

“It is a real honor to welcome Dr. Repollet to Rahway, in celebration of his many contributions to Union County and beyond,” said Commissioner James E. Baker, Jr. “He embodies the best of us, and he inspires us to keep building a strong, diverse and thriving community.

“Dr. Repollet has inspired thousands of students to advance in their careers, and go on to touch the lives of many thousands more,” said Commissioner Dr. Angela Garretson. “He is a true change maker and innovator, and his leadership presence uplifts the black community and all individuals he encounters.”

 “Dr. Repollet is a powerful champion for public education as the bedrock of our democracy, and for instilling a culture of inclusion and respect each student. We look forward to working with Dr. Repollet and Kean University for many more years to come,” said Commissioner Rebecca L. Williams.

Dr. Repollet was appointed President of Kean University in July 2020, building on his extensive experience in public education. With a focus on equity in higher education, Dr. Repollet has overseen the University’s successful application to be named as New Jersey’s first urban research university by Governor Phil Murphy in 2021. Last year, Kean was also accorded the status of Professional/Doctoral University by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education. The school is also in the process of achieving an R2 research Carnegie classification to reflect its focus on both research and transformational teaching.

Among the numerous honors and recognitions received by Dr. Repollet are the 2022 Leadership and Vision Recognition Award from EdgeCon, the 2022 Whitney M. Young Service Award Presented by Urban League of Union County and the 2022 Whitney M. Young Service Award from Greater New York Councils Boy Scouts of America. He also was honored in 2019 with the Medal of Excellence for Distinguished Service from The College of Education at Rowan University, the 2019 Trailblazer Award from the Innovation for Equity Summit, the 2019 Conclave Image Award from Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., and a 2018 Outstanding Human Rights Educator by Kean’s Human Rights Institute.

Among many partnerships with the Commissioner Board, Kean University has served as the flagship location for Union County’s COVID-19 pandemic response including testing, vaccinating, emergency food distribution, volunteer recruitment and the establishment of the first County based laboratory for testing COVID-19 samples.

The Commissioner Board established the Chester Holmes Humanitarian Award in 2012, in honor of the former County Commissioner and Rahway resident Chester Holmes, who passed away earlier that same year. An accomplished civic leader who loved the Union County community, Mr. Holmes was a former police officer, community volunteer and member of the Army National Guard.

Please note location change

Please join us for our 2023 Black History Month Flag Raising on Wednesday, February 1st at 1pm in the Commissioner Meeting Room, on the sixth floor of the County’s Administration Building at 10 Elizabethtown Plaza in Elizabeth.

In celebration of Black History Month 2023, the Union County Board of County Commissioners is pleased to present Langston & Beethoven: Black & Proud, a free evening of poetry and music exploring the life and times of the poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist Langston Hughes featuring WQXR Radio host Terrence McKnight  on Tuesday, January 31 at 7:00 pm at the Union County Performing Arts Center, 1601 Irving Street in Rahway.

Langston & Beethoven: Black & Proud is free of charge but seats must be reserved in advance. To reserve online, please use the form below.

“We are very proud to welcome Mr. McKnight back to Union County, to celebrate the beginning of Black History Month 2023 with our community. Langston & Beethoven: Black & Proud is an enlightening, enriching experience that reminds us of Union County’s deep connections to the great cultural movements of our past, and informs our understanding of the present,” said Union County Commissioner Chairman Sergio Granados.

“Langston Hughes is an important voice in the cultural and social history of the Union County community, having lived in Westfield in the 1930’s. Mr. McKnight provides a unique musical perspective on the creative threads that intertwine music and poetry from different eras, and we encourage everyone to come and enjoy this very special presentation.”

Langston & Beethoven: Black & Proud was created by Mr. McKnight, who is the speaker and narrator for the performance. He has paired the poems of Langston Hughes with music by Beethoven, two commanding talents separated by a hundred years’ time and vastly different worlds. Each found inspiration and the spark of creativity in the universality of the other’s art form. The evening will also include works by other composers.

Joining Mr. McKnight on stage forLangston & Beethoven: Black & Proud are pianist Kyle Walker, oboist David Norville and vocalist Chauncy Packer.

Mr. McKnight regularly curates concerts and talks at Merkin Concert Hall, the Billie Holiday Theatre, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the Museum of Modern Art. He is also the creator of A Langston Hughes Song Revival.

This will be Mr. McKnight’s fourth time returning to Union County to present high quality programming for Black History Month. A full orchestra version of Langston & Beethoven: Black & Proud will be presented at Lincoln Center in New York City in February.

This program is presented through the Union County Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs, and is funded in part by a grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a Division of Cultural Affairs in the Department of State; the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts; and the Union County HEART Grant program. 

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In celebration of Black History Month, the Union County Board of County Commissioners invites the public to view Black History Month – Notable People of Union County, a special exhibit of Union County residents who have distinguished themselves as inventors, artists and athletes. The unique exhibit pairs portraits and biographical information of notable residents with maps of the public parklands in their vicinity.

Our parks are the crown jewel of Union County – and the Black History Month – Notable People of Union County’s gallery provides a detailed insight into the roles that African Americans played as an inspiration to some of these outdoor spaces,” said Commissioner Chairman Sergio Granados. “I am proud to have these photos on display to give more awareness to the outstanding achievements many African Americans residents of Union County played in our community and beyond. I encourage all residents to come out and visit the gallery.”

 “This exhibit illustrates the linkage between access to open space and recreation, and the principle of equal respect and dignity, while raising awareness of the remarkable achievements of our most notable residents,” said Commissioner James E. Baker, Jr.

Black History Month – Notable People of Union County spans a wide range of accomplishments in many different fields. It inspires us to keep striving to build a community that supports the dreams and aspirations of our youth, and it reaffirms our duty to preserve and protect our public parks for all to enjoy,” said Commissioner Dr. Angela Garretson.

“With each Black History Month, we recover the hidden figures who have enriched Union County as a community, and who have made their voices heard in the wider world. This exhibit is a wonderful opportunity to refresh out knowledge of the past and renew our appreciation for the natural heritage preserved in our parks,” said Commissioner Rebecca L. Williams.

More than a dozen notable Union County residents are featured in the exhibit, including the artist and printmaker Robert Hamilton Blackburn, who revolutionized color lithography, and James Edward Maceo West, an inventor and Bell Laboratories Fellow who holds more than 250 patents.

The Commissioners gallery is open during regular weekday business hours, and on Thursday evenings when public Commissioner meetings are in session. To view the schedule of meetings visit ucnj.org/commissioners/schedule.

Exhibits at the Commissioners Gallery are coordinated by the Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs, a division of the Union County Department of Parks and Recreation.

In honor of the 2023 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, the Union County Board of County Commissioners joins the nonprofit organization Moms Helping Moms Foundation to encourage residents to donate diapers, formula, wipes, hygiene supplies and other necessities for mothers with babies and toddlers in need.

Donation bins have been placed at six locations for drop-off during regular business hours from Monday, January 16 to Friday, January 31.

“We know that there are families who are going through financial struggles. Anyone can fall on hard times, and the burden of making ends meet is especially difficult for families with babies and young children. We encourage everyone in the community to support our families, in need, by participating in this year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, and contributing a donation of supplies,” said Union County Commissioner Chairman Sergio Granados. “Moms Helping Moms is an organization that provides direct assistance to households with babies and young children up to age five, and we are very proud to support their work.”

 “Every donation will make a big difference in the lives of mothers who struggle to afford basic supplies. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service is a wonderful opportunity to step up and show your support for those who need a helping hand,” said Vice Chairwoman Kimberly Palmieri-Mouded, who is the Commissioner Board Liaison to the Commission on the Status of Women.

The donation bins are located in the following municipalities:

  • Cranford: Cranford Municipal Building, 8 Springfield Avenue
  • Elizabeth: Union County Administration Building lobby, 10 Elizabethtown Plaza
  • Fanwood: Fanwood Municipal Building, 75 North Martine Avenue
  • Roselle: Warinanco Sports Center, 1 Park Drive in Union County’s Warinanco Park
  • Westfield: Westfield Town Hall, 425 East Broad Street
  • Westfield: Ralph G. Froehlich Public Safety Building in the Union County complex, 300 North Avenue East

A wide variety of baby and mother care products are accepted, including but not limited to diapers, wipes, hygiene supplies and menstrual products. All donations must be new and in their original packaging.

Residents who prefer touchless pick-up can make arrangements through the Union County Office on Women, by contacting Jennifer Erdos, Coordinator at 908-527-4216 or jerdos@ucnj.org.

The Office on Women is part of the Union County Department of Economic Development. For more information visit online at ucnj.org/women.

 A group of new mothers launched Moms Helping Moms in 2011, with the goal of ensuring that every baby is provided with life’s basic necessities. Moms Helping Moms partners with community organizations, social workers, homeless shelters, schools, and others to collect and distribute essential items including diapers, clothing, formula, nursing supplies and strollers. More information is available at momshelpingmomsfoundation.org.