Irvington mayor, guests discuss Black Lives Matter, COVID-19, more from 2020

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IRVINGTON NJ — As reported last week, Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss held his State of the Township address on April 15. Various guests came together to support Vauss and highlight the many successes seen in Irvington during the past year.

Event speakers applauded the town’s toy drive, held during the holiday season.

According to Public Safety Director Tracy Bowers, the mindset was: “We’re going to be out with the fire trucks, and our administrative staff is giving out toys to the community and the kids to bring them holiday cheer and warmth to all the families in the community.”

For Vauss, this initiative was indispensable.

“Everyone should have toys in their hands,” Vauss said. “We’re going to knock door-to-door and ask if there are any children in the house. We’re going to ask the ages of children in the house, and we’ll try to get them toys that are age appropriate.”

Vauss also spoke about the Black Lives Matter movement and the work done in the township to create a Black Lives Matter mural in D. Bilal Beasley Square. At the mural unveiling, civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton addressed the community. The mural represents the many black and brown lives lost due to violence from law enforcement.

“2020 has been a very trying time for our country — not only battling the pandemic, which has taken many lives throughout the country, but also dealing with racial injustice,” Vauss said. “Also, dealing with the tragic death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many others who lost their lives senselessly to police violence. Here in the township of Irvington, we wanted to make a statement that not only do all lives matter, but especially black lives matter. Once everyone understands black lives matter, I think this will be a better country for you and for me.”

Other elected officials, including South Orange Village President Sheena Collum, shared encouraging words for the public and advocated for the continuation of COVID-19 vaccinations.

“I know the mayor has been a tireless advocate for Irvington and all of the amazing residents throughout these trying times,” Collum said. “We’ve also seen the best of people through volunteering, checking in on each other and supporting those who might need an extra hand. We’re going to get through this together. That’s why it’s so important for people to get vaccinated. We should be shooting for 100-percent compliance, and I know Irvington residents are ready to do their part.”

Rep. Donald M. Payne Jr., representing New Jersey’s 10th Congressional District, also urged residents to be vaccinated.

“Now that vaccines are becoming more available, we get closer to reopening safely and completely. But we’re not there yet,” Payne said. “All of us need to continue to do our part. Wear a mask, especially indoors and in groups of people and in conversations. Stay 6 feet away from others and wash your hands frequently. I am proud of the people of Irvington for doing all of the above. They are a great example of a New Jersey community that supports each other.”

Irvington Superintendent of Schools April Vauss, the mayor’s wife, stressed that, in order to reopen schools fully, the community needs to be vaccinated.

“It is my hope that in the near future, we will have both our teachers and our students return to the classroom safely,” she said. “Whether you’re learning in a hybrid model, whether you’re working remotely, whether you’re in person, it’s important that all of us get the vaccine.”

East Orange Mayor Ted Green echoed the sentiment, emphasizing the importance of wearing a mask.

“We have to continue to make sure we stay safe, we practice social distancing, we stay vigilant and make sure that we wash our hands,” Green said. “But more importantly, we have to make sure that we continue to cover up.”