Trenton’s importance to Black History Month
Black History Month is an important time to reflect on the contributions that black Trentonians have given to our community and our country.
Douglas Palmer, Trenton’s first African American mayor, led our City for two decades. He presided over Trenton’s rise as a transportation hub, bringing Amtrak service to our City, and fought to get guns off the streets.
Trenton is also the home town of David Dinkins, New York City’s first African American mayor. He continues to work in public service, serving on the boards of the Children’s Health Fund, the Association to Benefit Children, and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and is the Chairman Emeritus of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS.
Trenton is proud to have been the home of civil rights activist Edith Savage-Jennings. At age 13, she helped integrate the Capital Theater by refusing to sit in the balcony. She raised money for King’s Southern Leadership Conference and became close friends with the Kings, with Coretta eventually serving as Edith’s Maid of Honor. Edith’s activism continued throughout her life, and she was a keynote speaker at the 2017 Women’s March in Trenton.
Significant athletes came from Trenton, including Al Downing, who pitched Hank Aaron’s 715th home run, breaking Babe Ruth’s record. Elvin Bethea, a former defensive end for the Houston Oilers, is also a Trenton Native. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003. Troy Vincent was inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame for the Philadelphia Eagles and is now the Executive Vice President of Football Operations for the NFL.
We are also the home of Emmy, Grammy, and Tony-nominated playwright Ntozake Shange. Her play “for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf” earned her an Obie Award and was turned into a 2010 Tyler Perry film.
And, of course, Trenton is currently represented in Congress by Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman. She has the distinction of being the first African American woman elected to represent New Jersey in the House of Representatives. In Congress, she cofounded the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls. As black women and girls are disproportionately impacted by socioeconomic issues that threaten quality of life, the Caucus works to eliminate barriers of success for black women.
As many of you know, the City of Trenton is celebrating Black History Month with events every Friday. Our kickoff event was February 1st and was a celebration of arts and culture. On Friday, February 8, City Hall is hosted African drummers and dancers in the atrium from 12-1 p.m. Upcoming events include a Jazz Jam on February 15 and Lessons from our Past on February 22, both at 12 p.m. in the City Hall Atrium. All are encouraged to attend. Look out for event details on this and other celebrations.
Look out for both Citysponsored and other community events that I’ll be sharing throughout February. If you have an event you’d like the public to attend, please feel free to reach out to my office at (609) 9893032. — Trenton Mayor W. Reed Gusciora