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Hillside NAACP Celebrates First Year Anniversary with Freedom Fund


By: Najla Alexander

Hillside NAACP officials are excited to announce that a celebration of their first anniversary will be held on Friday, November 4.

NAACP officials say they will further celebrate their anniversary with a first annual Freedom Fund Awards Gala at Galloping Hill Caterers. 

“We are marking our first anniversary by celebrating our community, our accomplishments, and individuals that support our community,” said Nicole Graves-Watson, Founder and President of the Hillside Branch of the NAACP. 

Nine community leaders will be honored during the Freedom Fund Gala.

Honorees include: Richard T. Smith, President NAACP, New Jersey State Conference; Richard L. Smith, C.E.O. Metro Media Associates; Dr. Angela Garretson, Union County Commissioner; Shawn McClain, President Elizabeth Branch, NAACP; Rev. Dr. Christopher Michael Jones, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church of Hillside and member of the Hillside NAACP, Sakina Smith, Proprietor, Legacy GrowneyFuneral Home and member of the Hillside NAACP, Monique Fletcher, a founding member of Hillside NAACP, Crystal Page, a founding member of Hillside NAACP and Tarajee Russell, a founding member of the Hillside NAACP.    

Award pic

Nicole Graves-Watson, a mother of two, wife, and resident in the township of Hillside, became tired of witnessing systematic racism and inequality and wanted to do something!

Graves-Watson began the process of forming an NAACP Branch for the township of Hillside in March 2021. In the summer of 2021, she started mobilizing residents to become founding charter members of an NAACP in the township.

After work and on the weekends, Nicole and her 11-year-old daughter, Ashley, met with residents to encourage them to join by completing an NAACP application and paying the annual membership fee of $30.00 (thirty dollars). 

In August 2021, Nicole ran into Crystal Page, a former colleague and Hillside resident. Nicole encouraged Crystal Pageto to join. Not only did Crystal Page join, but she became a founding charter member and registered 27 additional Hillside residents. 

As of October 5, 2021, 105 paid members became founding charter members. The Hillside NAACP was chartered on October 16, 2021, and continues to grow daily.  

The Hillside NAACP has worked on multiple projects over the past year. The Hillside NAACP strongly advocates for the New Jersey Amistad Legislation to be fully implemented in Hillside Public Schools.

The Amistad Bill (A1301), which became law in 2002, calls on New Jersey schools to incorporate African American history into their curriculum. The Hillside NAACP recently partnered with the New Jersey Bar Foundation to offer a free Amistad curriculum for educators. The Hillside NAACP also held a virtual presentation to the public to provide information on the Amistad Act.

In collaboration with the Elizabeth NAACP, Lesniak Institute, and Kean University, the Hillside NAACP held a youth symposium on gun violence.

We have partnered with First Baptist Church of Hillside to co-sponsor the first annual Jazz festival in the township of Hillside.  

The Hillside NAACP partnered with the New Jersey Institute of Social Justice to provide a public information session on redistricting.

The organization implemented the Charlotte Jones Black History Month Essay Contest for middle school students. Three middle school students were awarded gift cards for their essays.

The Hillside NAACP looks forward to providing additional programs and services to the community. 

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is the oldest civil rights organization in the United States.

The NAACP was founded in 1909 to dismantle racism and accelerate change in critical areas such as criminal justice, healthcare, education, climate, and the economy. 

You can contact the Hillside NAACP at naacphillsidenj@gmail.comfor further information.