The city council will honor eight people at its annual Black History Month celebration including New Jersey Democratic Party chairman John Currie.
Currie’s nomination was opposed by councilman Michael Jackson last week. Jackson blocked the council from taking action on the honoring resolutions arguing honoring Currie will politicize the event.
“To whom much is given, much is expected. What he’s done for himself and the positions he has amassed speaks volumes, but when I think about the condition of my community I’m not convinced, I’m disappointed, I’m under the impression we can still do more,” said Jackson, 1st Ward councilman, without naming the chairman on Tuesday night.
Jackson suggested the chairman has done little to improve the condition of the city’s African-American community after reaching the heights of power. Other council members spoke positively of the chairman and his accomplishments.
“Regardless of the opinion anyone may have of chairman Currie, he had a yeoman’s task. He took over the party at a time when you couldn’t get a Democrat elected as a dogcatcher and he literally put Democrats in positions of power through his leadership and those positions became available to people of color,” said Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large. “Could he have had more successes? Yes. Did he fail in some instances? Sure. Whenever you have a monumental task before you, you’re going to have some failures and some successes.”
Morris said the event is put on to celebrate the achievement of African-Americans who overcame great obstacles to secure success.
Currie is the first African-American to be the chairman of the Passaic County Democratic Party. He is the second African-American to be the chairman of the state Democratic Party, according to the resolution approved by the council in an 8-1 vote (Jackson was the sole vote against). Under his leadership, the party took charge of the entire Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders. It was under his watch that Democrats took over the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office for the first time in 50 years in 2001, according to the resolution. The resolution also states he helped to elect Corey Booker, the first African-American U.S. Senator from New Jersey.
“He is an African-American who made history,” said Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman, speaking of the chairman. He has been the chairman of the Passaic County Democrats for the past 25 years. He became state chairman in 2013.
“He’s a true Patersonian from the projects; a person who puts Paterson first,” said Alex Mendez, councilman at-large.
The council unanimously approved resolutions to recognize former school district chief of staff Jacqueline Jones, police officer Marvin Sykes, activist Nancy Grier, Black Lives Matter activist Zellie Imani, businessman and civil rights activist Russell Graddy, and Larry Franklin. The council is also recognizing 13-year-old Jahmeir Wilson for creating a foundation that delivers presents to children with incarcerated parents.
The Black History month celebration will take place at City Hall on Feb. 1, 2017.