IRVINGTON, NJ — The township is planning a special ceremony to honor D. Bilal Beasley, the former Irvington Municipal Council President, Essex County Freeholder and Team Irvington social and political organization founder who died in 2014, by erecting a statue of him and renaming Civic Square after him on Saturday, Sept. 29.
“He was a fixture in town and one of the pioneers of good government in Irvington,” Mayor Tony Vauss said Monday, Sept. 10. “He’s also my mentor and he mentored countless other hundreds of people in town and beyond.”
Essex County Freeholder Lebby Jones, Beasley’s friend and Team Irvington co-founder, said she plans to attend the event in his honor.
“He was a good man. I loved him just like a brother. We were a team,” said Jones on Monday, Sept. 24. “We were at a meeting in Assemblyman Ralph Caputo’s office when I found out about it. I come out of the civil rights movement. I’m the last person from that time that’s still around, that knows the real history and the real story of how we took Irvington back. We were just truly committed, as friends and best friends, and I wanted to help him. We gave it to them; now it’s up to them to keep it.”
Jones said she had Beasley’s back during his lifetime and she continues to be committed to keeping his life and memory and their shared legacy alive after his death, including erecting a statue in his honor and renaming Civic Square after him. The council cleared the way for the ceremony by unanimously voting to accept the statue from his surviving family members, who commissioned and paid for it, at their regular meeting Tuesday, Sept. 11.
“In order for us to put the statue up, we have to accept the statue from the family,” Vauss said. “The family paid for the statue but, in order for us to accept it, the council has to pass a resolution accepting it. We’re also looking to recognize and rename Civic Square as D. Bilal Beasley Square.”
Council President David Lyons agreed with Vauss. Although he and Beasley were politically at odds for years, he said there was no question about Beasley’s impact on Irvington, which made him deserving of these honors.
“Let me say this for anybody who can say anything about any differences that I had with Councilman Beasley. Let’s just say this: No one can deny what he meant to Irvington politics,” said Lyons on Tuesday, Sept. 11, after the vote to accept his statue. “No money came from the township. 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.”
“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.”
Council Vice President and at large Councilwoman Renee Burgess on Tuesday, Sept. 11, echoed those sentiments, saying, “I also supported this. 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.”
Beasley’s surviving family members, including his Baseemah Beasley, his widow and the 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 council’s meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 11, said they were grateful for the support they have received from the governing body and Vauss, in their efforts to erect a lasting memorial to their patriarch.
“I appreciate your consideration,” said Omar Bilal Beasley on 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.’ ”
“The township has already been in the process of renovating the front of Town Hall and we thought this would be a great addition to that ongoing renovation of the front of Town Hall,” said Vauss.