EAST ORANGE, NJ — Irvington Township was well-represented at East Orange’s annual Memorial Day Parade on Monday, May 28.
U.S. Army veteran Ed Kaiser, a member of the Irvington NAACP and the People’s Organization for Progress, he joined P.O.P. Chairman Larry Hamm on Monday, May 28, and the rest of his group to participate in the East Orange Memorial Day Parade.
Kaiser and Darlene Troutman carried the “veterans deserve better care” banner for P.O.P. in the parade down Main Street in East Orange.
“The banner definitely states the truth. It’s an embarrassment what they do,” said Kaiser on Monday, May 28. “The memorial is for the guys that didn’t come back. They’re the ones we have to remember. They made the sacrifice.”
Troutman agreed, saying, “I know so many and they’re not supported.”
“We try to support every veteran we see by thanking them,” said Troutman on Monday, May 28. “They’re so happy that they’re being remembered. They need more.”
Kaiser said the tradition of protest against injustice, inequality, racism, prejudice and other social ills is as American as mom and apple pie, so it was appropriate for the People’s Organization for Progress to march in a Memorial Day parade in East Orange, before conducting its weekly Justice Monday protest in downtown Newark.
“There’s a lot of confusion with the flag as well, but you can support everything that’s fair and just and good,” he added. “All I can say is: Support the veterans, just like the rest of us, especially the older ones, the ones that are disabled, the ones that are having problems; don’t forget them. We don’t leave them behind but definitely make an effort to reach out.”
Irvington resident Rodney White was also in East Orange on Monday, May 28, to enjoy the parade, particularly because this was East Orange Mayor Ted Green’s first parade.
“Actually, I worked for the Veterans Administration in telecommunications, Operator 17, right here in East Orange, New Jersey,” said White on Monday, May 28. “You know, East Orange is my adopted city and I love Ted Green; he’s a great dude. But you know nobody rocks like Irvington and Team Irvington Strong. But I am just so proud of Ted Green and I know he’s the new mayor, but he always did great things here in East Orange and elsewhere. East Orange, you got a good mayor, a great one.”
Chris Coke, the East Orange Public Works Department director, agreed with White’s sentiment.
“This year definitely is special with Mayor Green,” Coke said at the event. “We’ve got a lot more involvement from the city employees and I think just the energy has been positive, so I’ve had fun. This is one of the great events that we do in the city of East Orange and I love being a part of it.”
Coke and the DPW held up the rear in this year’s parade, as they have in the past, and he said this was for practical reasons, since his department is responsible for setting up the reviewing stand and bleachers in front of City Hall, where the procession typically ends.
“That’s why we’re bringing up the rear, cleaning up as we come in,” said Coke.
Members of the People’s Organization for Progress marched in the East Orange Memorial Day Parade instead of downtown Newark, where they typically hold weekly protests at the Peter W. Rodino Federal Building on Broad Street in Newark every Monday from 5 to 7 p.m.
“I marched yesterday in the Newark African American Heritage Parade in downtown Newark and we’re going to do Justice Monday this evening,” said Hamm on Monday, May 28. “This will be our 122nd consecutive Justice Monday. We’ve been doing Justice Mondays for over two years now to protest against police brutality and the cases here in New Jersey.”
Hamm said there was a very good reason why the People’s Organization for Progress marched in the East Orange annual Memorial Day Parade and it wasn’t because the group’s vice chairman, Ingrid Hill, resides in East Orange. Last year, the group marked the holiday by placing wreaths on the statues, shrines and landmarks for fallen soldiers on Main Street in Orange.
“We’re here this morning and we’ll be at Justice Monday this evening, so it’s possible to do both,” said Hamm. “We always march in the East Orange parade and we’re glad to be here. It’s a great parade. There’s a lot of young people in it. So we’re glad to be here to participate.”
Hamm said events like the annual East Orange Memorial Day Parade are a great opportunity to educate children and adults of all ages about American history and black history. He also said the East Orange event is very near and dear to his group’s members because it allows them to remember Mary Weaver, an Army veteran and city employee who served as a P.O.P vice chairwoman and secretary general before her death.
“Last year, we went to the Civil War Soldiers Memorial up on Main Street and we placed a wreath there to celebrate the soldiers that died in the Civil War in the struggle to abolish slavery, especially the black soldiers who are rarely recognized but whose participation was critical to the victory of the Union forces. Black history is American history. Unfortunately, black people were left out of American history, so that’s why we have black studies now, but if we had a curriculum that truly reflected the true history of this country, there would be no need for all these different studies. But unfortunately, blacks were left out, women were left out, Native Americans were left out, even labor history was left out,” Hamm said.
“So today, we remember all the black soldiers that have fought in all the wars for the United States. African people were involved in the American Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the wars in Iraq. So today, we remember and the banner that we’re carrying today is ‘veterans deserve better care,’ because we think it’s a shame that veterans go abroad to fight and then, when they get home, they can’t get adequate medical care, they can’t get adequate housing.”