Black women groups unite to form new consortium

EAST ORANGE/ORANGE, NJ — The members of North Jersey Links, Montclair Drifters, the Delta Sigma Theta and Alpha Kappa Alpha sororities, The Northeasterners, The Girlfriends, and Jack and Jill of America have joined to form the “Sisters In the Movement Consortium,” to work together to promote the interests of women of color.

This new group has already been active in Orange at Park Avenue Elementary School, where it has held multiple events, including the “Unapologetically Black Talent Show” in February during Black History Month and the installation of a new Book Nook on Thursday, March 30, along with Mayor Dwayne Warren and school Principal Myron Hackett.

Orange schools public relations specialist Joan Purkiss said Tuesday, April 4, that the Book Nook, “received 1,000 books from Scholastic Books. Deputy Superintendent Dr. Paula Howard was present and spoke about how this effort ties nicely into the district’s and city’s Page Turners Reading Challenge, that promotes reading among all citizens and is trying to reach the goal of one million pages by the end of the month.”

Members of the SIM Consortium said helping all minorities, especially blacks, set and achieve big goals — such as the Orange Public Schools Page Turners 1 million readers marks — is what the group and its ethos of sisterhood are about.

“Sisters in the Movement is a new collaborative created by the North Jersey Chapter of The Links Inc. to bring national women leaders to New Jersey to talk about best practices for community service delivery and professional development,” Tracy Mumford, president of the Montclair Drifters, said. “SIM was developed when the possibility existed to have a woman president of the United States. The leadership of The North Jersey Chapter of Links Inc. saw an opportunity to expand the dialogue for women’s advancement in our communities and in our organizations. After the presidential election, the leadership of The North Jersey Links decided to do what women leaders always do — retool and move forward to strengthen our professional standing, to raise the bar on our commitment to our communities and to encourage young women to follow in the footsteps of professional leaders committed to moving communities from poverty to promise. What better time to launch SIM, then March: Women’s History Month.”

The SIM Consortium held its first cocktail fundraiser Thursday, March 30, at the Orange Lawn Tennis Club in South Orange, and Mumford and others said they hope it was the first of many more events to come. According to Alexis Roberts Colander, president of The North Jersey Chapter of Links Inc., SIM is looking to create a collaborative among women’s groups serving primarily Essex County, collectively representing nearly 400 women.

“We decided to come together during Women’s History Month to dialogue about leadership, service and friendship and support an organization that champions and uplifts women,” said Colander on Thursday, March 30. “SIM hosted an evening of dialogue, led by a leader of the national women’s movement and corporate executive, Margot Copeland, former national president of The Links Inc. and a senior executive at KeyBank. “Organizations such as these stand on the shoulders of their founders and inspire women to be a part of the change they want to see in our communities.”

Mumford said Colander is talking about “sheroes” or female heroes who inspire other women. Colander pointed out Newark native A’Dorian Murray-Thomas, creator of SHE WINS Inc., a leadership and social action organization for girls ages 10 to 15 in Newark, as one of the new breed of rising “sheroes” that SIM wants to cultivate.

“One of the young women, who has created a template to effectuate change in Newark and is inspiring young women around the country, was recognized for being a role model for other young women,” said Colander on Thursday, March 30. “She founded SHE WINS to create a pipeline of Newark college and career-ready young women leaders, who fuse social justice, mentorship and leadership development. She has been recognized as one of President (Barack) Obama’s White House Champions of Change for College Opportunity. A’Dorian and SHE WINS represents what we in SIM believe will take our communities forward.”

Murray-Thomas was also a featured member of the “I Am a Survivor Day” panel discussion at Central High School in Newark on Sunday, April 2, as part of the Newark Anti-Violence Coalition’s Week of Action for the Victims of Violence observance, in the wake of Maplewood grandmother Deborah Burton’s death in Newark last month. Orange City Council President and People’s Organization for Progress member Donna K. Williams was also present at the event.

“Women’s community service organizations have long been the foundation for some of our regions important service programs for urban communities,” said Colander. “Sororities and other women’s groups provide health programs that address health disparities of African-American communities, programs to feed the hungry, help to house the homeless and scholarships for college students. These organizations are a bridge to people for social programs, delivering essential services to help inform, educate and uplift communities of color, often serving as a bridge to advancement for women and families. These programs are needed now more than ever.”

Courtney Harris-Lee, one of the Park Avenue School Book Nook project organizers and sponsors, couldn’t agree more.

“I am an Orange Board of Education employee that belongs to the group, ‘Friends of the Essex County Chapter of the Links Inc.,’ and we are decorating a Book Nook at Park Avenue School Library” said Harris-Lee on Thursday, March 30. “In addition, we have a corporate scholarship from Scholastic Publishing and will donate over 500 general content and multicultural books for students in grades K to seven. We will be distributing an age-appropriate book to each of the 250 students and stocking the shelves of the Book Nook for Park Avenue School students to enjoy.”