Newark home to state's first Rosa Parks statue, officials say

By Jessica Mazzola | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on October 02, 2014

Rosa Parks statue was unveiled in Newark.

 

NEWARK — A visit to the Essex Government Complex can now include a look at what county officials say is the only Rosa Parks statue in the state.

A 700-pound bronze statue in the civil rights activist's likeness was officially unveiled during a county ceremony yesterday.

“This is a great thing for Newark, for Essex County, and for the state of New Jersey,” County Executive Joe DiVincenzo said at the unveiling.

“We’ve found that there are 10 Rosa Parks statues in the Unites States. This is the first one in New Jersey. There is no question that it should be here in Essex County.”

DiVincenzo joined Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, other local mayors and officials, students from the Rosa Parks Community School in Orange, and more than 100 guests to officially unveil the new addition to the government complex. The statue, by artist Jay Warren of Oregon, depicts Parks sitting on a bus seat, with the inscription, “You must never be fearful of what you are doing when it is right.”

“I’m sure that she didn’t think, when she sat down on that bus, that we would be here all these years later, 1,000 miles away, honoring her,” Baraka said of Parks.

The statue, he said, would serve as a reminder “for all of the children and grandchildren who continue to benefit from the struggle of Rosa Parks.”

Several speakers talked about the impact the “mother of the civil rights movement” continues to have on African American residents in Newark and throughout the state.

“She can be a symbol, but she can’t be the last,” Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver said during the ceremony.

“This needs to serve as a reminder to everyone in Essex County to continue to stamp out [discrimination].”

The statue, which cost about $100,000, was paid for entirely through private donations, county officials said.

Parks joins a long line of people who have been immortalized in Essex County statues commissioned during DiVincenzo's administration, including Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., Congressman Donald M. Payne, the first African American congressman in N.J., former Governor Brendan Byrne, and Jorge Oliveira, a 10-year veteran of the Essex County Sheriff's Office who was killed while serving in the armed forces in Afghanistan.

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