Irvington NAACP installs executive committee, celebrates black history

IRVINGTON, NJ — The Irvington NAACP installed its executive committee members at a virtual black history presentation on Feb. 27. Idris Wheeler, a youth member of the branch, opened the event by welcoming the elected officials, as well as NAACPers and supporters from Irvington and throughout New Jersey. 

Former state conference Chairperson Rev. Bill Rutherford, a current member of the West Orange Township Council, conducted the ceremony, swearing in Kathleen Witcher as president, Jerry Anderson as vice president, Alison Bryant as secretary and Patsy Caldwell as treasurer, among other volunteers. 

Though it has been 40 years since the Irvington NAACP was organized, Witcher told event attendees that there is still a great need for civil rights advocacy today. She specifically discussed the NAACP’s current lawsuit against former U.S. President Donald Trump and attorney Rudy Giuliani regarding their roles in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. 

Witcher invited all interested parties who are concerned about equal rights and ending discrimination to go online and join the Irvington NAACP branch at using zip code 07111.

Former Seton Hall University professor Rev. Forrest Pritchett introduced guest speaker Bashir Akinyele, a veteran history teacher for Newark Public Schools. Akinyele now teaches at Weequahic High School and has instructed fellow teachers on the implementation of black history and the Amistad curriculum into their lessons.

Akinyele discussed the deep legacy and contributions to society and civilization made by people of African ancestry. Like Pritchett, Akinyele is an active member of the decades old Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations, an organization that connects the history and journey of people of color and their meaning to survival of cultures throughout the world. Akinyele emphasized the importance of studying history and applying it today.

Akinyele also led the Newark Antiviolence Coalition, spearheaded by now Newark Mayor Ras Baraka. For five years in Newark, prayer and peace rallies were held on streets of the city wherever there was black-on-black crime. Since the attention to that cause does not stop, Akinyele led another rally in the South Ward last month calling for peace in the streets. 

The program ended on a high note, as Witcher invited all to celebrate the richness of African Americans in entertainment at the annual NAACP Image Awards.