Jamaine Cripe: ‘I Promise to Fight for All of Maplewood’

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The following remarks were made by Jamaine L. Cripe upon her swearing-in to her first term on the Maplewood Township Committee on January 1 at the 2022 Reorganization Meeting.

Jamaine Cripe is sworn in by Township Clerk Liz Fritzen

It is with hope, joy and great humility that I join this talented body of leaders who want nothing more than to improve this beautiful and slightly bruised Township we all call home.  Thank you, neighbors, for your literal votes of confidence in November and I hope to live up to the trust you’ve given me.

I want to congratulate my running mate, Nancy Adams, on her election to her third term in office.  You speak for the trees and for women in this community and I admire you for that.  Thank you, Tom Carlson, for maintaining our campaign finances (not my gift!) and to the people of this community who engaged in conversation, sharing their concerns and hopes for their future here with us.  I want what you want – good schools, safe streets, community engagement and a place I can afford to call home even upon retirement.

I’m gonna try to say this without getting emotional but I make no promises. I have been and am surrounded by love from people on this call and whose spirits kick me in the pants when I feel like quitting. Thanks to my parents, James and Joyce Howard, who set the volunteer bar high for me and my six siblings. We may not have the money to give to every organization we want to but as long as we have two strong hands, we can get down and do the work needed to help our communities. Thanks for never missing a performance and for standing up for me when people wanted to silence me.  I want to thank my husband Rick and my daughter Alice for allowing Mom the space to try something scary and new.  Thanks to my spiritual posse, Judie Hurtado, Tuli Patel, Jessica York, Aisha Hauser, Erica Shadowsong, Alison McLeod, Rayla Mattison, Mark Hicks, Robin Tanner and Emilie Boggis, for your guidance and connecting me to the work of my ancestors.  Public service is spiritual work.

Thank you, Ian Grodman, for not letting me forget that someone about 10 years ago had the chutzpah to write my name in on the ballot for local office. Thank you, Garnett Hall, for your advice and for cheering me on from the side.  You said you’d be there to answer my questions and calm me down and you both did.  And thank you to all our Maplewood Democratic Committee District Leaders. Thank you, friends.

Thank you, Vic DeLuca, for not thumping my thirty-something self upside the head for having the hubris to tell you that I’d “take your job someday” during one of the first times we met. It’s been nice getting to know you since then and I’m looking forward to working with and learning from you and the other members of the Township Committee.

Thank you, ladies of the Black Girl Brunch for putting out the call for one of us to run for Township Committee two years ago. I wasn’t the coolest or most polished one of us who stepped up but I’m grateful that you stood behind me nonetheless.  Same goes for Laurellie & Maya Martinez, Jane Anne Perry, Kim Collins & Tia Swanson. Keep me accountable, sisters.

To my neighbors in the Lightening Brook section of Hilton – I see you and I will work make sure our voices are heard equally as other neighborhoods in this governing body. Finally, to my families of choice at Beacon UU Congregation in Summit, NJ, Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism, and the communities of moms who’ve I’ve volunteered with for 18 years in SOMA.  From Mothers & More and the Newcomers’ Club to Columbia High School and Cougar Cares. You have been my ride-or-dies since the beginning and I’ll always have your six. Help me to remember to keep our babies and the vision of an improved future in my sights as I work within the system to bring about change. And when I can’t work it, give me the fire to challenge that system and replace it with something that works better for us all and not just a few.

Maplewood, you have entrusted this Township Committee with the task of taking our streets, our businesses, and public services beyond that of the typical, NJ bedroom community. We are in a unique position of having an amazing presence of talented leaders who are ready put in the hard work to improve the lives of our residents. To try new things, some unknown and unpopular. Others, simply new ways of seeing community concerns and solutions through alternative lenses.  Ultimately, we all want the same thing – to find better, fairer, more responsible ways of doing the work of local government.

I’m not gonna sugarcoat how I feel about the past 20 months and I feel that most people will agree with me that 2021 can’t go away fast enough. COVID forced us into our homes, away from family and friends, cost some of us our jobs, our health and in some cases, our lives.  Everyone lost something or someone.  I lost my closest cousin, my 2nd father, Jerry McBride on my 50th birthday. We began 2021 with a faction of followers of our twice-impeached former president using his hate rhetoric and distain for truth, justice and people in the global majority as the catalyst for insurrection against our democracy in our nation’s capital. We sit almost a year later with no real accountability being held by these domestic terrorists, those who climbed the Capital walls and those who gave intel and still defend these traitors in the name of hate and white supremacy in the media and in the halls of the US House of Representatives and the Senate.

The list goes on and that was just January! We’ve weathered 50-year storms twice in 2021, causing damage to many of our neighbors who are still struggling to repair their homes. The cost of living and taxes are up and continue to climb. We’ve grown complacent in our push for social justice since the Summer of 2020. Those injustices haven’t gone away. We’ve just pushed them to the side when they need to be centered so we can keep grinding away at the systems that hold back many and uplift few.

We can’t afford to sit and accept “the norm” from our leaders.  And I’m proud to say I am anything but normal.  I promise you that I will fight for all of Maplewood.  To work with the members of our Township Committee and this Township’s amazing, professional staff to improve the quality of life shared by all – to improve our public goods (our parks, roads, sewer and water lines), to support our low-income families, our seniors, and help them put down roots and be able to stay in Maplewood. To support our local businesses so they can thrive. I’m committed to empowering our youth to speak up and use their collective power to stop bullying and divisions based on who we are, what we look like, who we’re attracted to, how much money we have. “We have much more in common than that which divides us.” And when one of us is hurt, we all hurt.

And I’m not gonna lie – it’s gonna be HARD but I believe in us. Every one of us is struggling in some way due to COVID and the trajectory our democracy seems to be headed. So many of us are struggling with our mental health and it shows in how we interact with one another.  Words hurt and we have to get back to uplifting the inherent worth and dignity of one another when we speak. We can disagree without being destructive and I have faith that this Township Committee can model these practices in our work. I believe Nancy, Dean, Frank, and Vic have what’s best for all of Maplewood at heart when decisions are made and I look forward to working as a part of this body to move us into a stronger, more unified and more respectful Maplewood for all.

I hope you’re ready to join us on our journey into 2022.  May it be a healthier and better year for us all.

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