On Halloween, a group of Montclair residents called “The Young Black Fathers” hosted a community Fish Fry at the Wally Choice Community Center. The purpose was to bring residents together and have a conversation with local leaders.
However, the young men also wanted to help a local family. This past Saturday, Darrell Thompson and Rasjohn Harris presented Arlette River and her daughter, Gabi, a $600 check on behalf of the organization. An Oct. 20 fire displaced the River family from their Oxford Street home.
“I can’t tell you how much this means and how much support we have received from the community,” Ms. River said after receiving the check. “From the bottom of my heart, thank you, thank you, thank you.”
The gesture to the River family is not the first time the Young Black Fathers have given back to their community. Their annual back-to-school kickball tournament provides backpacks and clothing for kids returning to school. This year they added voter registration and a Census drive to the kickball tournament and registered 26 new voters.
Montclair Mayor Sean Spiller, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jonathan Ponds, and Essex County Commissioner President Brendan Gill attended the Halloween event, and each spoke to residents during a question and answer session.
Lifelong 4th Ward resident Dennis Crawley has been working with the Young Black Fathers for several years. He revealed how three years ago, the Young Black Fathers searched for ideas to impact the 4th Ward. They decided to clean up Mission Street, New Street, and Miller Street, cutting lawns and trimming hedges of every house on each street. The next year they held the first back-to-school kickball tournament. This year they wanted to add a new twist to the match and came up with the idea of a conversation with government officials. After hearing from Spiller, Gill, Ponds, and other residents, the group started talking about their next steps but first wanted to clarify their outreach.
“We call ourselves Young Black Fathers, but we want to help anyone,” Thompson said. “We don’t exclude anyone.”
Harris said it is all about giving back. He pointed to their work with the Montclair Neighborhood Development Corporation (MNDC) and Orange Councilman Weldon Montague. They all teamed up and held a job fair last Friday at the Wally Choice building. The event even offered individuals recently incarcerated an opportunity to get hired on the spot. It also provided expungement services. Amazon, Fed-Ex Ground, and Express Pros were three of the companies in attendance. Montague, a re-entry specialist at the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, was responsible for the companies showing up.