IRVINGTON, NJ — Former Municipal Council President, Essex County Freeholder and Team Irvington social and political organization founder D. Bilal Beasley died in 2014.
But according to his widow, Baseemah, her husband’s spirit was definitely in the air on Wednesday, Dec. 9, at the 13th annual Community Appreciation Holiday Dinner that she and most of his surviving family members now view as an ongoing, living part of his legacy to the town and community he loved. They had this year’s event at the Garden State Grand Lodge on Sanford Avenue.
“This is the 13th year of the annual holiday party dinner that he used to give,” said Baseemah on Wednesday, Dec. 9. “Myself and my children are carrying on his legacy and it’s just wonderful that people still come out. This is so dear to my heart that I won’t say it choked me up, but it made me feel good, because I felt him all around me.”
Baseemah said it’s been almost one year since Bilal died and, even though the pain of losing him is still fresh in her heart and mind, seeing the outpouring of love, positive regard and community spirit at the holiday dinner was proof it is possible to be active and alive in spirit, even though the physical body has passed away.
She also said Bilal would agree.
“Everything I do, he’s in my heart. He’s in my thought and it’s all about Councilman Beasley because Councilman Beasley was all about the community,” said Baseemah through tear-filled eyes and a voice quavering with emotion. “He loved Irvington and he would never leave Irvington, so he’s still here with the people. My every waking thought is about my husband. When we married 51 years ago, we said: ‘Til death do us part.’ And we were cellmates for life. We did everything together and, every time I open my eyes, I see my husband and he’s saying: ‘Baseemah, you can do it; keep doing it.’ And that’s what I’m going to do.”
Omar Bilal Beasley, their son, said he hears the same messages from his father and he also said he feels the same way about carrying on his legacy and the good works he did for the community while he was alive.
Beasley said, aside from his own personal feelings about his father and his life, he knows what he wants to do to keep his legacy alive are the right things to do because it is also perfectly in synch with his masonic values.
“Anything dealing with the community; any type of community-based organization, we always try and extend yourself and help them in any form or way that we can, because that’s what we’re about,” said Omar on Wednesday, Dec. 9. “We’re about community and uplifting, positive things. Every year, he had a community dinner where the community came together, we broke bread and we wished everybody a good and safe holiday and bringing in the New Year.”
Omar said, for 12 years, his father’s annual Community Appreciation Holiday Dinner was a good thing because “anytime you can bring people of many facets, from many walks of life together to break bread and smile and have fun” is good.
“It’s about making the world better,” said Omar. “Not only that, but it teaches the kids about self-esteem, having respect and building character and that was one of the foundations that my father taught me growing up. I can never fill my father’s shoes, but at least I can continue his legacy and that’s what’s going to make this thing great.”
Mia Perez, Yah-shaun Johnson, 12, Jeremiah Waller, 10, and all of the other people who came out to the 13th annual Community Appreciation Holiday Dinner said it was a great event. That was especially the case for Waller, who was one of the three lucky children who won a bike that night, thanks to the raffle that took place.
“It was a surprise and I’m definitely blessed and I’ve got a family and it was free, plus I would have never, ever thought I would come here and get a bike,” said Waller on Wednesday, Dec. 9. “I think this kind of party for the community is a good thing, because everybody is helping us with our family and they’re providing us with some of the things that we need.”
Mayor Tony Vauss said he agrees Baseemah, Omar Bilal, Waller and everyone else that keeping his friend and mentor’s legacy alive in a very important and worthwhile thing. He said that also extends to the rest of Essex County, too, since Beasley served on the Board of Chosen Freeholders for many years.
“We’re keeping the legacy alive that Bilal has made over many years here in Irvington,” Vauss said on Monday, Nov. 23. “There are so many things, such as the Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy of A Dream ceremony in January, that have become staples on the township calendar. It’s the right thing to do for Bilal and for the Irvington community.”