This weekly podcast will feature conversations with members of our local and nearby communities. For 2021, Our Voices focuses on this year's theme for Black History Month - The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity. This podcast will highlight black families who practice Judaism, black LGBTQ+ families, and black people with disabilities and their families.
In this episode, Donna Hendricks speaks to Beatrice Simpkins, Keldrick Wright, and Gary Paul Wright to discuss their insights into the Black LGBTQ+ community and their hopes for its future. They discuss the struggles and needs of the Black LGBTQ+ community to make their calls for justice heard. They also share personal stories of strength and resilience and impart their wisdom for the next generation.
Beatrice Simpkins is the volunteer Executive Director of the Newark LGBTQ Community Center and has worked in the field of nonprofit program development and management for over 20 years. The Center is focused on social justice advocacy, training police on anti-bias practices and engagement with LGBTQ people, and protecting the lives of BIPOC trans folx. Ms. Simpkins has emphasized the importance of changing the dynamics of oppressive social and economic systems that deny people their full freedom to be and live as they choose without fear, violence, or bias. She holds a Master's Degree in Public Administration from Rutgers School of Public Affairs and Administration (SPAA) and is pursuing her Doctorate in Transformative Social Change from Saybrook University. Her pronouns are she/her/hers and she is the proud parent of two daughters and Granny B to her grandchildren.
Gary Paul Wright
Gary Paul Wright is the Executive Director and co-founder of the African American Office of Gay Concerns, a center for HIV testing, prevention, and resources, located in Newark, NJ. He has been a leader and is an icon in HIV/AIDS advocacy. Mr. Wright is a member of the New Jersey HIV Planning Group (NJHPG) where he served two terms as Chair, and the NJ Governor’s Advisory Council on HIV and Other Blood Borne Pathogens. He also serves as a member of the Essex County Executive’s LGBTQ Advisory Board and is a Member of the Board of Trustees for Broadway House for Continuing Care. Mr. Wright lives with his husband, Peter, in South Orange.
Keldrick Wright is the Founder and Executive Director of Wright Independent Life Options (WILO NJ) which helps people with disabilities to learn independent living skills such as social skills, laundry skills, community awareness and safety, cooking skills, personal care, wellness, and other skills needed for one to enjoy life more independently. Mr. Wright has dedicated his life to one of service in helping children and young adults who have developmental and intellectual disabilities. He also served as the Vocational Director for ECLC of NJ’s PRIDE Programs. Mr. Wright has a BA in Human Services/Business Management. He resides in Maplewood with his husband, Eddie, and their five year-old son.
In this episode, Brandon Hayes interviews Marc Merriweather, Moriyah Webster, Yehudah Webster, and Shoshana Brown to discuss their insights into and experiences with being both Black and Jewish. They specifically talk about their commitment to their faith and how it intersects with their race. Through often frank conversations about their shared identity, they also challenge assumptions that all Jewish people are white and all Black people are Christian or Muslim.
Marc Merriweather is a South Orange resident. Marc is an attorney. He and his wife have two boys (ages 15 and 12) and a dog. They nurture a multi-cultural home. Marc strongly identifies as a biracial Jew. His mother is white and his father is black. His parents are both Jewish and raised Marc and his sisters in a Jewish home.'
Moriyah Webster has been a passionate student and teacher of Torah for more than 30 years. His name Moriyah means, “My teacher is Yah” and reflects his desire to point everyone to Yah as the true teacher. Prior to embracing his Jewish identity, he earned a BA in Theology at Ambassador University and served as a Pastor for 10 years in the USA, Guyana, Suriname, and the Caribbean. After converting to Judaism, Moriyah was a member of Congregation Oheb Shalom for about 15 years where he served in a number of roles including serving as a vice president, a regular Torah reader, leader of high holiday services, and teacher at the Hebrew School. Moriyah works full-time in technology in the financial industry.
Yehudah is passionate about ensuring the Jewish community’s commitment to the fight for racial justice and collective liberation. As a community organizer for Jews for Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ), Yehudah supports JFREJ’s police accountability and transformative justice campaigns through grassroots efforts that include lobbying for legislative reform. Yehudah has worked on establishing a national support network for JOCs through his JFREJ leadership, working to provide the much needed institutional support marginalized Jewish communities of color need and most recently co-founding Ammud: The Jews of Color Torah Academy. He is a graduate of JFREJ’s Grace Paley Organizing Fellowship and Bend the Arc’s Selah Leadership Program.
Shoshana Brown is a Black mixed-race, Jewish, femme. They are an organizer, healer, educator, and social worker. Organizing within the Jews of Color community since 2005, they are the co-founder of the Black Jewish Liberation Collective.
In this podcast episode of Inclusion, Individuality, and Independence: People with Disabilities in the Black Family, we speak to Dr. Ahadi Bugg-Levine and her mother Mrs. Jacqueline Murphy. Ahadi Bugg-Levine is currently Board President for JESPY House and part of our Black History Month Planning Committee. We were excited to ask Ahadi and her mother to share the memories of Tiamoya "Tia" Bugg their sister and daughter, respectively.
Tia loved living in South Orange. She enjoyed walking around downtown and was a regular at her favorites spots such as Dunkin Donuts, the Village Diner, Rite Aid (now Walgreens), and Eden Gourmet (now Ashley Market). She loved books, music, and dancing, and talking about politics. Before moving to South Orange, she grew up in Maplewood. Her family has lived in SOMa for almost 45 years. She had epilepsy and learning and developmental disabilities. Tia had a nocturnal seizure and passed away in 2010.
In this two-part episode, Brandon Hayes, interviews Aliyah, Arthur, and Myles as they provide a first-hand account on navigating through school, sports, and COVID while not allowing their disability to stop them from getting ahead. Ms. Dawn (Aliyah's Mom) and Ms. Nedra (Myles Mom) discuss what methods they use to ensure that their child is included and has a sense of normalcy in places where they might not feel included. In part 2 of this episode, Dr. Ahadi Bugg Levine, Board President of Jespy House provides a glimpse into her life with her sister Tia while her mom provides parents with ways to cope when their child does not get the support and assistance that one would expect in a school. Over and over the theme of this podcast is inclusion and having a sense of belonging and understanding about every child in a school system.
Aliyah & Dawn
Aliyah has been a client at JESPY House* in South Orange for over two years. Aliyah enjoys participating in a variety of JESPY activities and embraces her independence. She loves music and dancing. She likes going to the mall with her boyfriend. She enjoys socializing with her friends. Dawn is Aliyah's mother.
Arthur has been a client at JESPY House* in South Orange for three-and-a-half years. Arthur is a lot of fun. He loves to tell jokes and make others laugh. He excels at supporting the growth of his peers. He enjoys sports - especially basketball. He likes exploring South Orange, taking walks with his girlfriend, going out to eat, and hanging out with his friends. He also enjoys going to the local malls.
Myles & Nedra
Myles is currently a senior at Columbia High School in Maplewood. He enjoys going to CHS football games where he roots for the Cougars! He will be part of the graduating class of 2021. He loves the NY Giants. He has cerebral palsy. Myles and his family have been residents of Maplewood for almost 14 years. Nedra is Myles's mother.
Ahadi Bugg-Levine & Jacqueline Murphy
Ahadi Bugg-Levine and Jacqueline Murphy were excited to join this podcast to remember Tiamoya "Tia" Bugg their sister and daughter, respectively. Tia loved living in South Orange. She enjoyed walking around downtown and was a regular at her favorites spots such as Dunkin Donuts, the Village Diner, Rite Aid (now Walgreens), and Eden Gourmet (now Ashley Market). She loved books, music, and dancing, and talking about politics. Before moving to South Orange, she grew up in Maplewood. Her family has lived in SOMa for almost 45 years. She had epilepsy and learning and developmental disabilities. Tia had a nocturnal seizure and passed away in 2010.
*JESPY House is a nonprofit organization that helps adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities to live independently in South Orange.
Assemblywoman Mila M. Jasey is the Deputy Speaker of the General Assembly for the State of New Jersey. Mila represents the 27th Legislative District, which includes South Orange and Maplewood. She is a strong champion of education, housing and community development, health, and disability rights issues. Ms. Terry Brewin is an artist and teacher of art at Science Park High School, a magnet public high school, located in Newark, New Jersey. Mr. Chris Oden is an independent producer in Brooklyn, New York.
In this podcast, Mila, Terry, and Chris come together to celebrate the life of their brother Chester W. Oden, III (or, as he preferred to be called, “Moose”). Moose grew up in a loving family with his parents and ten brothers and sisters. Although he lived in South Orange for only three years, he became a fixture in the community. He loved watching soccer, baseball, and basketball games in the parks. He loved to swim at the South Orange pool and feed the ducks at Cameron Field. He worked at the Occupational Center in Orange. He lived a full and productive life. Moose passed away at the age of 31 in 1989.
Assemblywoman Mila Jasey shared photos of Moose and her family through the years.
The trailer for our weekly podcast will feature conversations with members of our local and nearby communities. For 2021, Our Voices focuses on this year's theme for Black History Month - The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity. This podcast will highlight black families who practice Judaism, black LGBTQ+ families, and black people with disabilities and their families.