EAST ORANGE, NJ — East Orange Mayor Ted Green said the return of Jabril Peppers, the New York Giants’ strong safety and East Orange native, to his hometown to host the Back to School Book Bag Giveaway in Oval Park on Saturday, Aug. 10, was just the tip of the iceberg.
“He gave out over 800 backpacks and supplies in those bags, which are a jumpstart for our young people to go back to school and be prepared,” said Green on Tuesday, Aug. 13. “He also gave them a talk about the importance of going to school and staying in school even though he’s a pro athlete in the NFL.”
“A few weeks ago we had Rasul Douglas, another East Orange native who made it to the NFL and plays for the Philadelphia Eagles, who did a football camp where over 400 kids came out,” continued the mayor. “He gave out backpacks and T-shirts for the kids to go back to school, too.”
“That’s right up my alley, because I’ve been doing back-to-school events for the last 15 to 20 years. Across the city, we are promoting progress and, when you promote progress, you’ve got to call out the village and the village is all of us. Everyone has got to be on board.”
Green said his administration also has big plans to help East Orange youth begin the 2019-2020 school year the right way. But he said he’ll need a lot of help from the community, particularly fathers and men of all ages.
“We’re going to call it the ‘Million Dad March,’” said Green. “We’re asking all men to come out and participate. We’re calling all men. If you’re a father, if you’re a provider … a relative, and you love kids, we’re asking you to come out and greet our students as they come to school on the first, second and third days of the new school year.”
Green said he wants to use the Million Dad March to set a positive tone for the new school year in East Orange.
“We’re going to encourage the kids walking through that line. We’re going to drive this thing coming up looking at the end of August,” said Green. “Anybody that’s interested in coming out to support our kids can call 973-266-5152. Speak to Justin Brown in the Mayor’s Office of Constituent Services.”
The mayor said he also plans to go “new school” and use social media to help spread the good word about the Million Dad March and other upcoming events.
“We’re going to go Facebook Live to show the world that not all black men are out here selling drugs and doing crime,” Green said. “When I grew up, all the men played the role as fathers, big brothers, mentors, caregivers, coaches, teachers and protectors in the community. We’re bringing back that tradition. Each one teach one each one reach one and that’s our goal.”
Green said he’s also bringing a sense of urgency to this year’s back-to-school events in East Orange, in light of the mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, that have many wondering about public safety issues, when they should be focused on working hard and getting a good education.
“With all this stuff going on throughout this country, what better way than for the kids to see strong African American and minority men standing there greeting them when they come back to school”?” asked the mayor. “It’s not going to stop there. We want to see men out in the community. Our nature is to nurture our kids. Mentorship is not just one day.”
Green said he’s excited about what’s in store for the city and the East Orange public schools.
“I’ve been all over the city this summer. We’re doing things throughout the city. I’ve still got that same energy that I had back in 2004, when I first got elected to the City Council,” Green said. “I’m on fire and I’m feeling good about this city. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said he’s been to the mountain top and his eyes have seen the glory. I feel the same way. You don’t need a lot of money to do a lot. We become the village. Like James Brown said: ‘Say it loud. I’m black and I’m proud.’ We don’t want nobody to give us nothing. Just open the door and we’ll do it ourselves.”