Historical Society reaches out to community

Photo by Chris Sykes
Historical Society of East Orange President Goldie Burbage, left, stands with members of the East Orange Public Library staff last year during the kickoff ceremony for the new partnership between her group and the local institution to promote local history.

EAST ORANGE, NJ — The Historical Society of East Orange is on the move and President Goldie Burbage said Tuesday, Feb. 7, that the group’s goal is to stay as active and relevant as possible to the community. Among the society’s endeavors is its traveling Black History Month display; encouraging and empowering women by supporting the reformation of the Committee on the Status of Women in East Orange; endorsing 5th Ward Councilman Mustafa Brent’s plan to form a Committee on the Status of Men in East Orange; and collaborating with the East Orange Public Library to dedicate an area of the institution to the city’s history,.

“It’s historical in general,” Burbage said in reference to the society’s partnership with the library. “The (Historical Society of East Orange) are the ones that proposed the collaborative endeavor and library Director Carolyn Ryan Reed was very receptive. We’ve had meetings with her staff. We plan to continue meeting on a regular basis and to become intimately involved in all aspects.”

The goal as always, Burbage said, is to “be more accommodating for people from other areas that are connected to the city of East Orange in one way or another,” because “the (Historical Society of East Orange) is an active organization.”

“The membership fee is $25 annually, but to be a member requires participation on a regular basis,” said Burbage. “Members are active in various programs. It’s not an organization where you sit and become a member. Everybody must become an active participant. Some people just like to see their name on a piece of paper. In our organization, you have to have active participation.”

Burbage said she supports the restoration of the Committee on the Status of Women in East Orange and the formation of a new Committee on the Status of Men in East Orange. Brent, who is spearheading the effort, is a captain with the East Orange Fire Department in addition to serving as the 5th Ward councilman. He recently stated at the annual council reorganization on Monday, Jan. 2, that he plans to reinstate the city’s defunct Committee on the Status of Men in East Orange; Burbage announced the restoration and resurgence of the Committee on the Status of Women in East Orange back in November 2016.

Tahira Muhammad, the current president of the Committee on the Status of Women in East Orange, is married to an East Orange firefighter, but Burbage said the links between the Committee on the Status of Women in East Orange and Committee on the Status of Men in East Orange and the East Orange Fire Department are just a fortunate coincidence.

“I didn’t re-establish the Committee on the Status of Women in East Orange; 1st Ward Councilwoman Amy Lewis re-established it,” said Burbage. “It goes back for years. I was among the first members of the (committee) under Mayor William S. Hart Sr., when it was first established. I kept after the powers that be to resurrect the (committee) over the years until last year, they made it an active organization and Amy Lewis is the council representative.”

According to Burbage, East Orange women continue making local history and the same goes for the city’s men.

“Mayor Lester Taylor appointing Phyllis Bindi as the city’s first-ever female police chief was a historical moment … Not only the police chief, but the fire chief, because the new chief, Andre Williams, is the youngest ever in the city’s history. Both were historical appointments.”

As library director, Ryan Reed said local historical tidbits such as those Burbage mentioned are the reason she decided to have the East Orange Public Library collaborate with the Historical Society of East Orange to set aside a special section of the main library to feature local history. Fifth Ward Councilwoman Alicia Holman said that is a very good thing for everyone in the city, because the East Orange Public Library is “a safe haven for many of our children here in the city of East Orange.”

“The library is a cultural and community center and I’m also pleased to announce that our Local History Room was adopted by the Historical Society of East Orange and their members will be volunteering at the library to help make local history accessible to you,” Ryan Reed said Thursday, Feb. 2.

“Last year, we served over 265,000 patrons; an increase of 14 percent. On any given day, over 400 people are visiting the library. We offer a full array of services and programs for everyone. We’re a multimedia center and we even have an app for your smartphone and we’re also wireless and we just added a fax machine and a scanner, because many people asked for that.”

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