EO women reassert themselves in committee, Fire Department

EAST ORANGE, NJ — There was more on the menu than turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and the usual Thanksgiving dishes at the East Orange Salvation Army pre-Thanksgiving Community Dinner on Sunday, Nov. 20.

Salvation Army Advisory Board Chairperson Goldie Burbage also used the occasion to introduce Tahira Muhammad as the new president of the city’s Committee on the Status of Women. This proved timely as two new members of the East Orange Fire Department, which volunteered at this event, are women.

Muhammad is married to East Orange Fire Department FMBA Local 23 President Garret Wynn.

“We resurrected the Committee on the Status of Women for East Orange and I wanted to introduce the new president,” Burbage, who also serves as the president of the Historical Society of East Orange and the East Orange Education Foundation, said Sunday, Nov. 20. “It was established during the term of William Hart Sr., who was the first African-American mayor for the great city of East Orange. I happen to have been a member of the first committee and I have been re-elected to serve as the vice president.

“I have vowed to give all of the help that I can to our newly elected president. It’s called paving the way for the next generation.”

Muhammad said she looks forward to living up to the high expectations Burbage has set.

“We will be having a tremendous year,” Muhammad said Sunday, Nov. 20. “Look out for us in 2017.”

Akeem Cunningham, one of East Orange’s newest firefighters, has been making his way through the fire academy with the two newest female firefighters, Lashay Johnson and Kianna Smith, and said he’s already gotten a good glimpse of what’s in store for the city, adding that it’s a good thing.

“It’s imperative to have a stance on women and empower women in the community, so it’s a beautiful thing,” said Cunningham on Sunday, Nov. 20.

Prior to joining the East Orange Fire Department, Cunningham was best known for organizing his own nonprofit group that gave parties for single mothers in the city as a show of appreciation for their struggles. So it’s no surprise he’s in favor of the restored Committee on the Status of Women for East Orange, as well as the new female firefighters.

“We’re not the first female firefighters; the first was Capt. Smith, who was the first female captain in East Orange,” Johnson said Sunday, Nov. 20. “We both live in East Orange and it’s definitely really nice to continue to help our community and to contribute in the ways that men have for years.”

Smith agreed with Johnson, saying, “We’re also glad and proud to be an example for other women and young girls and be an inspiration to other people.”

Muhammad said she was glad to hear that.

“I think the biggest thing is that they’re here and there should be equal parts of them,” said Muhammad. “It shouldn’t be a rarity that they exist. It should be normal that they exist. And that’s what we want to get to.”