President Obama’s portrait to join others in council chamber

Photo Courtesy of Joseph Fagan
Micheal and Yvonne Roach, left, with Tammy Williams and William Rutherford, posing in front of the portrait of President Obama painted by Michael Roach.

WEST ORANGE, NJ — A locally commissioned and painted portrait of former President Barack Obama will join other presidents at the West Orange Municipal building.

“A group of young people were touring the municipal building,” West Orange African Heritage Organization President Yvonne Nambe-Roach said. “At the end of the tour, some noted that the display of past presidents was impressive, but in their hearts they felt that something was missing. They wanted to know why there was not a representation of President Obama.”

Nambe-Roach spoke at the Feb. 21 council meeting about the painting, done by local artist Micheal Roach, that will be placed alongside others in the council chambers. Nambe-Roach spoke on how impressionable young people are, and how representation can have a positive impact on young black and brown youth.

“Young minds are extremely impressive and we must nurture them with images that reflect that they, too, are important,” Nambe-Roach said. “We at the Heritage Organization felt it was our duty, our responsibility and an obligation to try to do something about it.”

Nambe-Roach further elaborated on the core principles of the Heritage Organization, which prompted the decision for this painting to be commissioned.

“The Heritage Organization is proud to carry out Carter G. Woodson’s three primary goals when he proposed Black History week in 1926,” Nambe-Roach said. “First, he wanted to promote an appreciation for the life and history of Black Americans. Secondly, he wanted to encourage an understanding of our present status, and lastly he wanted to enrich the promise of the future.”

According to Nambe-Roach, this painting encapsulates all three of those goals, through showing appreciation of Former President Obama, encouraging an understanding of the present and creating a path forward to a promising future to which young people can look forward.

“In keeping with the ideas of Black History Month, we are charged with the obligation of promoting an appreciation of our history,” Nambe-Roach said. “Encouraging our youth to be the best and honoring the historical contributions of our history makers.”

Councilman William Rutherford elaborated on the importance of not only the painting, but the ability for African Americans to tell their story and create history.

“Carter G. Woodson had some plans for what was then Black History Week,” Rutherford said. “Tonight, on multiple levels, was evidence of what Woodson wanted years ago, President Obama’s portrait was painted by an African American artist. The gift is received at a time when you have probably the most diverse town council in the history of this town.”

Local African American artist Micheal Roach unveiled his painting at the meeting after Nambe-Roach’s speech. Council President Tammy Williams congratulated Roach and the Heritage Organization for their work.

“It is my privilege and pleasure to thank the West Orange African Heritage Organization and specifically Mr. Roach for this generous, generous, beautiful portrait,” Williams said at the meeting.