Council unanimously approves statue in honor of Beasley

Photos by Chris Sykes
Above, Mayor Tony Vauss, center, stands with member of Irvington Strong and family members of D. Bilal Beasley, including his widow and Irvington Democratic Committee Chairwoman Baseemah Beasley, third from left, as well as current Council President and North Ward Councilman David Lyons, left, and the other council members, after the governing body’s regular meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 11, where it unanimously voted to accept the memorial statue of Beasley that his family donated to the township. Accepting the statue clears the way for the township to erect it outside the Municipal Building and rename Civic Square during a special ceremony scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 29.

IRVINGTON, NJ — The Irvington Municipal Council unanimously voted Tuesday, Sept. 11, to approve a resolution authorizing the acceptance of a statue of deceased former council President D. Bilal Beasley, who was also an Essex County Freeholder and founder of the Team Irvington social and political organization founder. The statue was donated by Beasley’s family and the D. Bilal Beasley Community Fund.

According to Mayor Tony Vauss, passing the resolution clears the way for the township to erect a statue to his friend and mentor outside the Municipal Building and to rename Civic Square after him during a ceremony on Saturday, Sept. 29.

“Let me say this, for anybody who can say anything about any differences that I had with Councilman Beasley,” said council President and North Ward Councilman David Lyons on Tuesday, Sept. 11, after the vote to accept the statue. “Let’s just say this: No one denies what he meant to Irvington politics.”

Lyons had a sometimes contentious relationship with Beasley for years. And Lyons’ council colleagues agreed wholeheartedly with his statement.

“It’s only fitting and proper that we recognize him and I can’t think of a better way to put his name and his contributions into permanent memory in this township than by naming a very important part of this township, a place that he spent a lot of time, which is Town Hall and in the square,” said West Ward Councilman Vern Cox on Tuesday, Sept. 11. “I can think of no other better way to remember him than this. There is one other way. We’re going to erect a statue to his memory as well.”

“I would like to say I concur with my colleague,” said at large Councilwoman October Hudley on Tuesday, Sept. 11. “D. Bilal Beasley has done so much for the community. As I read his (biography), it was actually pages of his sacrifice that he’s actually done for this community and I concur and I support this.”

“I also supported this, said council Vice President and at large Councilwoman Renee Burgess. “I think, sometimes, when people think about the person and really look at the legacy that this man has put forth and how he sacrificed his time, his family, just so not only ‘political’ people would benefit but the whole township as a whole.”

Appreciation for how the governing body intends to honor Beasley was expressed by his family, including Baseemah Beasley, his widow and current Irvington Democratic Committee chairwoman; his daughter, Jamillah Beasley-McCleod, a current member of the Irvington Board of Education; and his sons, Omar Bilal Beasley and Akbar Butler, who were at the council meeting.

“I appreciate your consideration,” said Omar Bilal Beasley before the vote Tuesday, Sept. 11. “I look forward to you having your vote and, whatever the end results are, my father still says, at the end of the day, ‘May God be with us.’ ”

Irvington Joint Block Association and Nesbit Terrace Block Association President Elouise McDaniel did inquire during the public participation portion of the council’s meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 11, where the funding for the statue would come from, but Lyons assured her it was fully paid for by the Beasley family and private donors.

“You also wanted to know was the community made aware that the statue is going to be erected,” said Lyons. “Anybody that wants to be made aware can always come to council meetings. You came and you said that you wanted to have a voice in this. If the community wanted a voice, then tonight was the night that they should have come. If people come to council meetings, they get a chance to speak, just like you do.”

“No money came from the township,” continued Lyons. “It came from donors and the Beasley family. That’s where the money came from. There have been members of the Board of Education who we’ve named streets in honor of before.”