Irvington NAN wins chapter of the year honors

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IRVINGTON, NJ — A year after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the National Action Network’s annual conference to downsize, allowing only chapter presidents to attend, Irvington’s chapter of the national civil rights and community service organization was recognized as the chapter of the year. Chapter President October Hudley, who is also the Irvington Township Council’s first vice president, said she was surprised by the recognition.

“I was pleasantly surprised,” Hudley said in a phone interview with the Irvington Herald on April 21. “I have a really good team I work with; we all work well together. I have some dynamic members, and when I call on them to help, they’re right there.”

Founded by the Rev. Al Sharpton in New York City in 1991, the National Action Network is a nonprofit organization that draws attention to issues such as police brutality, racial profiling, and stop-and-frisk laws. There are chapters all across the country, which organize local events based on community needs.

Hudley said that, in Irvington, NAN organizes food drives for those experiencing food insecurity, blanket drives for a local women’s shelter, voter registration outreach and a distribution of bagged lunches to homeless people who need them. During the height of the pandemic, NAN members distributed masks and other personal protective equipment to medical workers and helped vaccinate residents against the virus. They were also involved with the 2020 painting of the Black Lives Matter mural outside of Irvington’s Town Hall.

“We have one of the biggest chapters in the state,” Hudley said. “When you have people who believe in it, they show up.”

The pandemic didn’t really slow the Irvington organization down that much. It stopped them from holding regular meetings in person, but other than that it was business as usual.

“We never stopped meeting,” Hudley said. “Face to face we did, but we hosted them on Zoom. We still went out in the pandemic to help, wearing masks and gloves. Quite a few people actually joined us over the pandemic, because they wanted to help.”

At the annual conference this year, Hudley was one of a group of chapter presidents chosen to meet with U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, who was a speaker at the event. She was eager to discuss programming for Irvington’s undocumented residents.

“Irvington has 50,000 residents, but I think we have many that are undocumented,” Hudley said. “I want to know what programs to provide to them that they might need. We want them to be able to become citizens without being afraid of being deported.”

Undocumented residents often don’t participate in the census, which is a tool used to determine how much federal funding local municipalities receive. Without an accurate count of the population, Irvington will miss out on potential funding dollars.

“We want to get everyone counted so we can do more for them,” Hudley said.

Photos Courtesy of October Hudley