The following is from the Office of Essex County
Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. and the Essex County Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Advisory Board hosted the Essex County LGBTQ Pride Month Celebration on Tuesday, June 20th. During the ceremony, DiVincenzo presented Pride of Essex County Awards to Czezre Tyrell Adams, an Officer with the Newark Police Department; Reginald Bledsoe, Legislative Aide to Newark Councilman Eddie Osborne, and Joan Garry, LGBTQ activist and non-profit consultant, in recognition of their support in the struggle for equality for the members of the LGBTQ community.
“Every year in Essex County we celebrate Pride Month and our LGBTQ community. It is our opportunity to raise awareness about issues that affect this segment of the population and recognize outstanding members of our own LGBTQ community,” DiVincenzo said. “Our three honorees have done the difficult work in their respective fields of providing support, protecting human rights and promoting understanding,” he remarked.
Czezre Tyrell Adams, known to many as “Porkchop,” was born and raised on High Street in Newark before he moved to Franklin, N.J. After graduating high school, Adams attended Virginia Union University and then Essex County College, earning a degree in social science. After college, he began working in the Newark Public Schools in various capacities. An active and vocal community leader, he has advocated for local school control, HIV/AIDS prevention, LGBTQ rights and police reform. In 2014, Adams ran for City Council and became the youngest openly gay candidate in the state. In September 2015, he was hired by the Newark Police Department and has already received several awards. In February, his interview for “What it’s like to be a Black Gay Cop” was published on the Advocate Magazine’s website.
“Of all the honors I’ve ever received this one is the most special for me because my mom, dad and grandmother are all here to see me receive it. I want to thank the County Executive for recognizing me and to my family, the Newark Police Department and my friends for their support,” said Adams. “There’s more work that has to be done. I envision a world where people can identify as LGBTQ without discrimination. I know my work is not done and I won’t stop until we all have equality,” he added.
Reginald Bledsoe is a Legislative Aide to Newark Municipal Council Member Eddie Osborne. Born and raised in Newark, he graduated from Essex County Newark Tech in 2009. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Montclair State University, where he was elected the first African American Student Trustee on MSU’s Board of Trustees. In 2010, he was elected the youngest Democratic District Leader in District 5 of the Central Ward. In his spare time, Bledsoe volunteers on the Youth Activities Committee of High Park Gardens, where he resides. In 2015, he was included on the Observer.com List of 50 Powerful Young Black Democrats and, in 2016, was recognized by Observer.com as one of New Jersey’s 30 under 30: Political Up-and-Comers. He serves on the Board of Directors for United Community Corporation, Newark Pride and One Voice for LGBTQ Issues.
“Thank you, County Executive DiVincenzo and the Essex County LGBTQ Advisory Board, for this honor and Speaker Sheila Oliver and Senator Teresa Ruiz, my mentor and all those who paved the way for me to do what I do,” said Bledsoe. “This award is very humbling to me because I love Essex County and I look forward to doing the work and continuing to ‘Put Essex County First’,” he added.
Joan Garry is a professor of nonprofit media strategy at the University of Pennsylvania and a blogger for The Huffington Post. She also works with CEOs of non-profit organizations, assisting with crisis management and executive coaching. For nearly a decade, Garry served as the Executive Director of GLAAD and later as the co-chair of Barack Obama’s LGBT Finance Committee during his 2008 presidential campaign. Garry and her partner, Eileen Opatut, were the test case for the Appellate Division which made second parent adoptions legal statewide. They became the first second parent adoption in the State of New Jersey when they adopted their daughter Scout in the early 1990s. This paved the way for every non-biological gay parent adopt their children. Early in her career, Garry was involved with the development and launch of MTV.
“There are these ‘Aha Moments’ that we all experience in life that let us know that one person can make a difference and for me that was about my family. We have made a lot of progress, but we live in unhealthy times. I hope that by recognizing us, it will help to get more people involved, running for elected office, becoming allies and being activists,” said Garry. “Being a lesbian is my super power, I don’t take anything for granted, I see the world through different lenses and I recognize that each of us brings something different to the table and that is what makes our communities stronger. Thank you to the County Executive and the Board of Chosen Freeholders for this award, Mayor Jackson for the introduction and my wife for her support,” she added.
The Essex County LGBTQ Pride Month Celebration is the part of a yearlong cultural series created by County Executive DiVincenzo to highlight Essex County’s diversity. Other cultural heritage celebrations include African American History Month, Irish Heritage Month, Women’s History Month, Italian Heritage Month, Jewish Heritage, Portuguese Heritage and Latino Heritage. Created in December 2010, the Essex County Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Advisory Board is one of several volunteer advisory boards that discusses issues affecting the community and provides recommendations to the Essex County Executive.