A motorcade and parade took Olympic Bronze Medalist and Maplewood native Ibtihaj Muhammad from Springfield Avenue through Maplewood Village on Saturday. Locals lined the route to cheer on the hometown hero while dignitaries and elected officials — from Mayor Vic DeLuca to Assemblywoman Mila Jasey to Columbia High School Principal Elizabeth Aaron — saluted Muhammad.
Other distinguished guests included Essex County Freeholders Wayne Richardson, Lebby Jones and Patricia Seabold; Deputy Mayor Nancy Adams; Township Committeewoman India Larrier; and Township Committeemen Greg Lembrich and Ian Grodman; South Orange Trustee Deborah Davis Ford and former Maplewood Mayor Fred Profeta.
DeLuca told the crowd it was a beautiful day for a parade — despite sweltering temperatures — and to show support for Muhammad. The Olympian showed her 2016 Team USA Bronze medal and let enthralled children and grownups hold it in their hands.
The town issued a proclamation declaring Sept. 10, 2016 as Ibtihaj Muhammad Day. Richardson said of Muhammad, “She put Maplewood on the map.”
CHS Fencing parents gave Muhammad a photo poster collage, and CHS Principal Aaron presented her with a framed New York Times article to sign. It will hang in the halls of CHS.
Care NJ presented the Olympian with the “Breaking Barriers Award.”
In remarks, Muhammad thanked her hometown for its support and said she had always been amazed by the sense of community in Maplewood. She noted the town’s diversity and said that while there have been places where she has been told the “doesn’t belong,” she never felt that way in Maplewood.
Everywhere she goes, she tells people, “I’m just a girl from New Jersey.”
Muhammad said her medal is for all children who are told that they can’t do something.
A self-described competitive person who doesn’t like to lose, Muhammad started fencing at age 12 at New Jersey Fencing Alliance in Maplewood. Her competitive edge certainly came in handy as she and her fellow teammates clinched the bronze in Rio. Muhammad talked about what fencing meant to her as a young girl, and said she hopes the sport begins to grow in popularity.
For now she is “taking everything one day at a time,” and trying to rest and recover. She’s “very happy to be back in Maplewood.” In a few weeks she is off to work with the Olympic Committeee to help Los Angeles try to win the bid to host the 2024 Games.
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