First ladies hold inaugural summit meeting

Photo Courtesy of Tony Vauss
From left are April Starkey Vauss, Linda Jumah Baraka, Dr. Karma Brown Warren and June Jones-Green.

ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — The mayors of Irvington, East Orange, Orange and Newark have something in common: Their wives are eager to take active roles in the communities their husbands serve. With that in mind, the women came together for the inaugural meeting of the First Ladies Summit at Echo Tap & Grille on Saturday, Dec. 14. 

At the meeting, the four women discussed what they could do to help better their communities. Spearheading and facilitating the summit was Linda Jumah Baraka, wife of Newark Mayor Ras Baraka. The four agreed it would be the first of many meetings and considered it a brainstorming session on what they could do to be helpful in pushing their communities forward.

April Starkey Vauss, wife of Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss, took part in the summit, and the mayor praised their efforts, saying that building communities and sharing ideas can bring people together.

“We need women who are so strong they can be gentle,” Tony Vauss told the Irvington Herald on Tuesday, Dec. 17. “So educated they can be humble, so fierce they can be compassionate, so passionate they can be rational and so disciplined they can be free. This will result in building our communities, sharing ideas and bringing us all together.”

“Strengthening these bonds inspires better work and a more valued environment in Newark, Orange, East Orange and Irvington,” he continued. “Building meaningful relationships within our county and state is very important. There are several components that contribute to strong relationships — respect and trust, to name a few.”

As they considered how frequently to meet, the mayor’s wives discussed reaching out and helping the younger generation by creating a summit for young girls and teens. In doing so, the four women would help mentor local youth from adolescence to adulthood. 

April Vauss said she wanted to work with the other women to find ways to collectively support the needs of the community. 

“The group was brought together by First Lady Linda Baraka,” April Vauss told the Irvington Herald on Tuesday, Dec. 17. “This was the first meeting of the First Ladies of Newark, Orange, East Orange, and Irvington. While our initial purpose of meeting was to uplift and support each other, our long-term goal is to collectively work to support the needs of our community.”

She said touching all four towns with an idea such as this has the potential to make a huge impact among young women in the black community, as well as other ethnic backgrounds. Together, Vauss said the four of them are making an attempt to change the landscape and set an example of how women can team up, shift the narrative and work together.

Linda Jumah Baraka also spoke highly of the first meeting of the First Ladies Summit.

“I had a great time of fellowship,” Baraka said in a quote sent to the Irvington Herald on Tuesday, Dec. 17. “I’m looking forward to many more laughs and hugs with my first lady sisters.” 

June Jones-Green, wife of East Orange Mayor Ted Green, also spoke glowingly of the meeting.

“It’s a pleasure to have brunch with the First Ladies of Newark, Orange and Irvington,” she said in a quote sent to the Irvington Herald on Tuesday, Dec. 17. “We all had a wonderful time. 

Dr. Karma Brown Warren, wife of Orange Mayor Dwayne D. Warren, also expressed her pleasure about the lunch.

“I had an awesome lunch with my first lady sisters,” she said in a quote sent to the Irvington Herald on Tuesday, Dec. 17.

April Vauss said she looks forward to working with the three women as well at the next meeting.

“Such an encouraging time,” she said. “I, too, look forward to our next meeting with my sisters.”