WEST ORANGE, NJ — New Jersey Women for Haiti and the West Orange Human Relations Commission hosted a prayer vigil for Haiti on the steps of West Orange Town Hall on Aug. 25. The two-hour event was a moving show of support for the local Haitian community and was emceed by Natacha Clesca-Charlemagne of NJWH, which received support at the event from several local organizations, including Haitian Diaspora United for Haiti, Haitian Nurses Network, and Apanou Restaurant in Irvington.
The island nation has recently suffered political turmoil heightened by the July 7 assassination of Haiti President Jovenel Moise, followed by a 7.2-magnitude earthquake and Tropical Storm Grace, which has caused devastation, death and the displacement of thousands. The vigil featured Christian praise and worship performances, interpretive dancers, traditional songs, and several speakers. A moving rendition of the Haitian national anthem, “La Dessalinienne,” was given by Erna LeTemps.
Members of various religious denominations — including the Rev. Jean Maurice of Temple of Unified Christians Brick Church in East Orange; the Rev. Joe Thelusca of Mount Olivet Church in Neptune, who has also served as a special adviser to the provost at Seton Hall University in South Orange and as chaplain of the East Orange Police Department; and Elders Esther Maurice and Guerlande Thompson — presented moving prayers, in both English and Haitian Creole, with an underlying theme emphasizing unity and peace and leadership for Haiti and its people.
Among the local dignitaries in attendance were state Sen. Richard Codey, West Orange Mayor Robert D. Parisi; West Orange Township Council members President Cindy Matute-Brown, Michelle Casalino, Susan McCartney, Tammy Williams and Bill Rutherford; West Orange Board of Education members President Terry Trigg-Scales and Melinda Huerta; Irvington Councilwoman Charnette Frederic; East Orange Councilman Bergson Leneus; and the former mayor of Toms River, Joseph Makhendal Champagne, who was the keynote speaker.
Photos Courtesy of Joseph Fagan