EAST ORANGE, NJ — Superheroes, including the Black Panther and the Hulk, Aquaman and Miss Incredible, joined East Orange Mayor Ted Green, City Council and the Department of Recreation to celebrate the annual Tree-Lighting and Toy Giveaway at City Hall on Thursday, Dec. 6, with hundreds of children and family members in attendance.
“The mayor needed some super help to help deliver his toys to the city of East Orange, so we’re here to participate and help out,” said Miss Incredible, also known as recreation department employee Kaleena Koon, on Thursday, Dec. 6.
The Black Panther said he and the Hulk also came out to “support the community.”
“We cannot share our secret identities with you, but we can say that we’re from Cicely Tyson School and I’m 13 and in the eighth grade and he’s 13 in the ninth grade,” said the Black Panther on Thursday, Dec. 6. “We’re supporting the community.”
Black Panther also said the superheroes came to the local event for the free hot chocolate the East Orange Recreation Department employees served, and the Hulk said he came out to wish everyone in East Orange happy holidays.
“Happy merry Christmas to everyone,” said the Hulk on Thursday, Dec. 6, while also dispensing spoilers about the upcoming “Avengers” movie, reassuring attendees that the Black Panther would make an appearance in it, saying, “My brother will come alive soon.”
But Renee Muhammad, director of the Recreation D
epartment, and Victoria Lewis, a supervisor, gave the real reasons why there were so many superheroes at the Tree-Lighting and Toy Giveaway.
“This is something that they wanted to do a little bit different. Rather than have elves and snowmen, they wanted to have superheroes, because so many kids identify with them,” said Lewis on Thursday, Dec. 6. “This is our annual Christmas Tree-Lighting and gifts for the kids. This is sponsored by our mayor, Ted Green, and City Council and recreation department and many other departments join together to make this the affair that it is, taking care of the children in our city, to make sure that they get something, a gift, entertainment, some hot chocolate and some cookies and some love.”
Lewis said there was a lot of excitement in the air at this year’s Tree-Lighting and Toy giveaway. She attributed that to this being Green’s first time hosting the event as mayor, as well as the overall atmosphere during the holiday season.
“Everybody’s excited to get a free gift. Everybody’s excited to see Santa. Everybody’s excited for the music,” said Lewis. “It’s that time of year. It’s the holidays.”
Muhammad agreed with Lewis, but said the presence of so many from the East Orange Police and Fire divisions accounted for even more heroes.
“We have a host of things going on here today,” said Muhammad on Thursday, Dec. 6. “We had hot chocolate. We had the Cicely Tyson High School Choir. We had Santa and Mrs. Claus taking photos with the children. We had some fabulous gifts and some fabulous sponsors.”
“Our superheroes are here because of the fact that everybody does not necessarily celebrate Christmas. Christmas is the season of giving, the season of loving, caring and sharing; however, everybody doesn’t celebrate Christmas,” said Muhammad, who is Muslim. “We have Kwanzaa celebrations, that’s going to begin Dec. 25, all the way through Jan. 1. Everybody doesn’t celebrate Christmas. Some people just like to celebrate the season. We have characters here because some people might want to take a picture with one of our superheroes or they can come stand here and take one with the EOFD.”
Fire Chief Andre Williams agreed with Muhammad.
“There’s a lot of everyday heroes. Everybody that makes this city go, to work,” said Williams on Thursday, Dec. 6. “Police, fire, recreation, the Mayor’s Office, the City Council; what they did out here today is amazing. So there’s a lot of heroes. We like what we’re doing. We love our community, so it makes it easy.”