EAST ORANGE — The East Orange Hall of Fame Ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 30, honored a diverse set of people in different categories, shining a light on local talent in the Jean L. James Theater at the Cicely Tyson School of Performing and Fine Arts.
Darryl Jeffries, the facilitator and consultant for the East Orange Hall of Fame Committee, was eager to usher in the incoming Class of 2019.
“There is an unusually large number of people who have excelled on the national and world stage,” Jeffries said in a phone interview with the Record-Transcript on Friday, Nov. 29. “Based on our town, we have already inducted 38 people in 2017 and 38 people in 2018. Combining those two classes, that’s 76 people inducted into the East Orange Hall of Fame. As of tomorrow night, this incoming class of 2019 consisting of 30 inductees, we will have a combined total of 106 people inducted within the third edition of the East Orange Hall of Fame. East Orange runs very deep. We’re just scratching the surface in five categories.”
Nominations were split into five categories: Arts and Letters, Performing Arts, Enterprise, Civic and Community Service, and Sports. Among those inducted this year were retired state Supreme Court Justice Stuart G. Pollock, educator Steven Cowan, choir director Tabari Sturdivant and former NBA star Marques Jamal Bragg.
Inducted in the Civic and Community service category was Tracy Munford, who is currently the vice president of public relations and community affairs for Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of New Jersey. Munford said she’s honored to be included with fellow honorees.
“The East Orange Thanksgiving Reunion Week was epic, and the Hall of Fame Induction was extraordinary,” Munford said in a quote sent to the Record-Transcript on Sunday, Dec. 1. “I am so honored to join my cousin, Clyde Richards, and my fellow honorees and to stand proudly on the shoulders of my mother and father, Bernice and Donald Munford. I look forward to, with my family, expanding our civic and service commitment to East Orange.”
Serving as the celebrity presenter for this year’s ceremony was East Orange native Vincent “Vin Rock” Brown of the hip-hop group Naughty By Nature. He agreed to lend his star power to play an active role in the gala.
“I’m proud to announce that I will be serving as a guest host for the East Orange Hall of Fame Class of 2019 Induction Ceremony. As an inaugural inductee, alongside my band mates in Naughty by Nature, Treach and DJ Kay Gee, I look forward to helping make the ‘third edition’ induction ceremonies a resounding success,” Brown stated in a press release for the event, referring to his bandmates, Anthony Criss and Keir Lamont Gist, who are also from East Orange.
“The East Orange Hall of Fame is a force for good in our community as a non-profit organization,” Brown continued. “Proceeds benefit youth and other enrichment programs. I encourage everyone — our corporate and civic partners — and the many loyal citizens, along with the many talented new arrivals, to join us Thanksgiving weekend for this historic celebration. I’m a proud ‘Son of the City,’ a product of a culture of excellence. I am very fortunate to have grown up in this special village. I look forward to learning more and telling our story about this pioneering heritage of our great city through the lens of the extraordinary achievements of its distinguished citizens.”
When asked why Brown was chosen to serve as a guest host and celebrity presenter for the event, Jeffries countered with: “Why not Vinny Brown?”
“Vinny is a hometown hero,” he said. “He is a fierce, fully loyal citizen. We bring a brand of excellence to the table and we view Vinny as that. Vinny has expressed his interest in being involved in the hall of fame.”
Naughty By Nature rose to prominence with the release in 1991 of the self-titled debut album, featuring the classic No. 1 hit, “O.P.P.” The band’s fortune rose when emerging star Dana Owens, aka “Queen Latifah,” signed Naughty by Nature, known then as “New Style,” to her management company, leading to the group’s rebranding and a deal with Tommy Boy Records.
The East Orange Hall of Fame Ceremony, which was first spearheaded by co-founders Theodore D. Stevens II and James Pitchford Jr., this year included sponsors such as East Orange Hall of Fame Inc., Forman Family Foundation and McManiman, Scotland & Bauman LLC.
Among the 30 honorees inducted, six were in the category of Arts and Letters: Stephanie Bush-Baskette, John Langston Gwaltney, Kevin Hudson, Marcus Anthony Hunter, Dr. Sonja S. Hutchins-Eke and Alfred Slocum. In the category of Civic and Community Service, six people were inducted: Yvonne C. Blake, Lewis N. Miles, Annie V. Moore, Leon Moss, Tracy Munford and Lee N. Shingles.
In the category of Enterprise, five people were inducted: Tyrone Brown, Alfred Clapp, George E. Cushnie Funeral Home, Sherry Hutchins-Henderson and Stewart G. Pollock. And in the category of Performing Arts, three people were inducted: Barbara Curry Montgomery, Jean L. James and Tabari Sturdivant.
In the category of Sports, 10 were inducted: Clifton Thomas Baskerville Sr., Marques Jamal Bragg, Stephen Cowan Jr., Kim M. Fisher Sr., Wallace Florence, Major Reginald Henry, Albert Meningall, Odell A. Rolling Jr., Lee H. Sager Jr. and Wiley Williams.
Before the event kicked off, Jeffries expressed his excitement in welcoming the 30 new inductees in a ceremony that East Orange holds dear.
“We’re excited,” he said. “We can’t wait for the curtain to rise to honor the 30 inductees. We encourage all those to suit up and show up and to be part of the greatest event in history in the city of East Orange. This gives us an opportunity to tell the world who we are.”
“These people are the byproducts of excellence,” he continued. “These individuals span the broad cross section of human endeavor, not just sports and entertainment. They excel on all fronts. The city has produced a history of high-standing, extraordinary individuals.”