By Walter Elliott
EAST ORANGE - The estimated 500 people who gathered here at the East Orange STEM Academy main entrance at North Clinton Street and Renshaw Avenue would not let a 20-minute thunderstorm cancel the late addition to the city's National Night Out events Aug. 7.
The intense storm cell, which cut short Maplewood's NNO at De Hart Park, passed in time for organizers to finish erecting tents, a sound system and Mayor Ted Green's podium for the Kofi A. Owens memorial candlelight vigil.
Owens, 45, of Newark, was declared dead from a gunshot wound in his car while parked along South 16th Street 1:18 a.m. Aug. 3. The popular 10-year STEM Academy teacher and another person were found between Central Avenue and Ninth Avenue which the East Orange-Newark border bisects. (The other person will not be identified for safety concerns.)
The Owens family, Mayor Green's office, the East Orange Police Departments NNO delegation the East Orange Board of Education and the city's DPW posted the candlelight vigil to the dozen or so already scheduled for the first Tuesday in August's late afternoon and evening early Aug. 6.
"We weren't going to let rain stop us," said brother Kwame Owens during the hour-long service. "It stopped and the skies cleared in time."
Mayor Green and East Orange Chief of Police Phyllis Bindi said that they had no alternative plan to the sunset vigil.
Word of Kofi Owens' death rippled through and beyond the city community.
"I'm extremely saddened to learn of the sudden death of Kofi Owens, a beloved and well-respected teacher and mentor in our East Orange School District," said Green in his Monday morning statement. "My deepest sympathy goes out to his family and all those who feel the loss throughout the community. This type of violence will not be tolerated in our city, and we're working aggressively with all law enforcement agencies to ensure that those responsible are swiftly brought to justice using every means necessary."
Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura and the county CrimeStoppers have posted an up to $10,000 award for information that leads to an arrest.
Newark Anti-Violence Coalition media advocate Zayid Muhammad announced Monday that his group had set 6 p.m. Aug. 9 to hold its weekly rally at the Owens' shooting.
"In our culture," said Muhammad, "one of the greatest losses a community can endure is the loss of a great teacher."
"Kofi Owens was a dedicated employee who worked in the district for over 10 years," said East Orange School District Superintendent Dr. Kevin West. "He was well-respected by his colleagues and students. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."
The profound loss of Owens was felt on at least two levels, the first of which was of his return-home-to-give-back story.
The Brooklyn-born Owens' family moved to East Orange when he was 12-years-old. He attended EOSD's Sojourner Truth Middle School before going to Essex County's North 13th Street Vocational-Technical High School in Newark.
Owens, who concentrated on advertising design at North 13th Tech, went on to graduate from Bloomfield College with an honors bachelors of arts degree in computer graphics.
Owens joined EOSD in 2006 and was most recently the STEM Academy's technology coordinator - which brought mourners to contemplate his openness to those he met.
"Kofi Owens volunteered every Thursday afternoon to an afterschool mentoring group," said West at the vigil. "He was mentoring up to 82 young men."
"He always treated us like kings and queens," said Anisaa Jean-Pierre, who will be a junior at the STEM magnet high school next month. He did right by us."
The third quality in measuring the loss of Owens came in the 500-person turnout at the former Clifford J. Scott High's northeast entrance. The gathering spilled outside its gates, prompting EOPD officers to close Renshaw between North Clinton Street and Glenwood Avenue. NJTransit's No. 34B buses to and from Bloomfield had to be detoured.
That turnout brought Gloria and Sharonda Owens - his mother and wife - to tears.
"Kofi came out of the gate sharing his gifts and talents," said Gloria Owens. "I told him one time that when I grow up I want to be like you. I've been proud to have him every day for all 45 years of my life."
"It's been a tough week," added Kwame. "I'm proud that he was with me for all my 34 years."
"It's good to know that so many of you loved him," said Sharonda, "as I did."
Kwame said that the event was more of a celebration of his brother’s life than a mourning - and a call to act on his legacy.
"Who among us will rise," asked Fourth Ward Councilman Casim Gomez. "Who among us will stand to carry the torch?"
First Ward Councilwoman Amy Lewis and Second Ward Councilwoman Jacquelyn Johnson were also seen among the crowd.
"When residents have a sense of unity," said Green, "we can turn back crime and these senseless shootings."
The vigil ended with a third candlelight lighting before 9 p.m. Bro. Thomas Ellis, of the Enough is Enough Coalition, had the crowd sing along to "This Little Light of Mine."
UPDATE: Owens' funeral is slated for 9 a.m. on Aug. 18 at Christ Church in Montclair. Also, several details from the original version of this article have been revised.
EAST ORANGE - On Thursday, July 19, East Orange Mayor Ted R. Green announced that Jose “Joe” Cordero will return to the city of East Orange as Liaison for Public Safety.
In this role, Cordero will assist the administration in evaluating and assessing all aspects of public safety including the fire department and emergency management, and report directly to Mayor Green. Cordero previously served as the city’s first police director from 2004 – 2007 and then again for a year in 2010.
“I am happy that Joe accepted my offer to again return to East Orange,” said Mayor Green. “I am very confident that Joe’s background, proven track record of success and commitment to the people of East Orange will help us to deliver the high quality of service that our residents expect, need and deserve.”
“I am excited to return to East Orange, especially at a time when the city continues to experience historic lows in all areas of crime,” said Cordero. “During my time as the city’s police director, we implemented new strategies using technology that produced record-breaking results. Most importantly, we regained the public’s trust. I look forward to working with Police Chief Phyllis Bindi and Fire Chief André Williams to ensure that East Orange is a safe city for everyone who lives, works and visits here.”
Under Cordero’s watch, East Orange saw unprecedented reductions in murders, rapes, robberies and other violent crimes. East Orange has continued that positive streak. To date, the city has seen an 18% drop in overall crime, 31% drop in violent crime and 40% drop in homicides since last year.
East Orange recently graduated 22 police officers with 19 more currently in the academy.
Caption - East Orange Mayor Ted R. Green presenting 9-year-old Kori Scott with a proclamation for saving her best friend’s life. Photo Courtesy Connie Jackson
East Orange, NJ - On May 31, 2018, Mayor Ted R. Green presented 9-year-old Kori Scott with a proclamation for saving her best friend’s life by performing the Heimlich maneuver near their school cafeteria. Mayor Green also proclaimed Kori Scott “Mayor for the Day” on Friday, June 1, 2018, in honor of National Heimlich Maneuver Day and in celebration of the city’s brave community hero.
“I am honored to stand here today and recognize Kori as one of East Orange’s own hometown heroes,” said Mayor Green. “Kori’s brave actions have already made an incredible impact on our city. Kori learned the Heimlich maneuver from her parents. Her smart instincts and quick actions are characteristics of a true hero, and it fills me with pride to have her here today as a representative of our city and community.”
Earlier this month, Kori’s best friend and classmate at Bowser Elementary School began choking on a piece of food. Remembering the technique that she learned from her parents, Kori quickly began to perform three to four thrusts to her classmate’s chest until the food expelled.
“I’m proud because of the quick thinking; she snapped right into it,” said Kiana Scott, Kori’s mother. “I am overjoyed. Words cannot express how happy and proud I am.”
Created by Dr. Henry J. Heimlich in 1974, the life-saving procedure is observed on the first of June each year. According to the American Red Cross, choking causes over 3,000 deaths per year. Proper training and knowledge of the Heimlich maneuver may help to save a person’s life.
By Dhiren Shah
On May 22, 2018, by invitation, I visited East Orange General Hospital. I was accompanied by Pastor Reverend Arnold Fox, Tonisha Nicholls, and Tanya Flood for a tour. Why did I agree to the tour? The main reason is the perception of the hospital. For decades, the hospital for decades was a non-profit hospital and the largest private hospital in the state of New Jersey.
As soon as I heard that they spent $13 million already, my ears were listening to something different. The perception was going down. Why? They took over a year ago. They started to improve the quality of service by updating the machinery and facility. The look of the hospital is different now than a year ago. The key is the medical service and customer relations.
We started with the emergency department. They have improved the facility with a better waiting area and new tactics to speed up treatment. The waiting time for the emergency room has been improved a lot, as per Tonisha Nichols.
Lea Rodriguez, the former Chief Nursing Officer at Clara Maass, has joined EOGH as the new Chief Nursing Officer. Within the past two months after joining EOGH, she said, “I am building a team with more experienced staff and educating nurses coming on board and making sure the technicians are educated and skilled as needed to make necessary changes for the best for our patients.”
She added, “We implement rounding. We are rounding much more on patients. Our waiting room is not staying filled. Patients are taken care of as quickly as possible, with expedited frequent rounding to make sure their needs are met.”
Rev. Fox said, “They also have staff that interact with the families of the patients. So families are kept abreast on why their loved ones are waiting longer then they should; so families are communicating as well.”
They have a GYN women’s health center on the 4th floor. They have a one stop center for women, including the best diagnostic equipment right on the same floor, so women do not have to go back and forth. The unit has been fitted with the best diagnostic technology : a 3D digital mammography that provides improved accuracy in the diagnosis of dense breast tissue, Standing Stereotactic Biopsy, a bone densitometry machine, and a new ultrasound machine.
They have emergency room managed by the same group that oversees the St. Barnabas System. Their radiology is managed by Rutgers radiology physicians. Also, their behavioral health department and family health department are well known according to Tanya Flood.
The hospital recognizes the importance of community outreach and has partnered with various organizations to promote health awareness and wellness in East Orange.
The improvements at East Orange General Hospital will work only if the residents of East Orange and the surrounding area take advantage of the facility. Prospect Medical has committed $30 million to renovate, update technology and expand services.
EAST ORANGE - Mayor Ted R. Green and Director of Public Safety Sheilah Coley were joined April 19 by other city legislators and public safety officials to announce the arrest of an individual in the homicide of Karamoko Fatiga, a well-known deliveryman for a local Chinese restaurant in East Orange. Members of the victim’s family were also in attendance.
A 17-year old male has been charged with felony murder, murder, robbery and weapons offenses for the April 2, 2018 murder of Fatiga, who was killed in the vicinity of 156 Shepard Avenue in the Third Ward. The defendant’s name is being withheld because he is a juvenile.
“Mr. Fatiga was a hardworking, beloved member of our community whose tragic and senseless murder has ignited a deep sense of mourning and outrage across our city,” said Mayor Green. “As someone who has grown up here in East Orange and walks these neighborhood streets every day, I was personally heartbroken to learn of Mr. Fatiga’s killing. No one in our city should feel unsafe, least of all those who go out every day and work hard to support their families and give back to the community. My administration remains steadfastly committed to ensuring that East Orange remains a safe place for everyone in our city and community to live and work.”
Fatiga is East Orange’s first homicide victim of 2018. East Orange has seen a 20% drop in overall crime. Violent crime is down 33 percent. The East Orange Police Department will graduate 24 new police recruits in June; twelve sergeants and 4 captains were promoted in April.
“Working with the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, the East Orange Police Division spared no resources in bringing this terrible incident to a swift resolution,” said Director Coley. “Our message to potential criminals is clear: If you commit a crime, there will be nowhere to hide. Investing in our personnel and technology will continue to remain at the forefront of our efforts to keep East Orange safe.”
Later on, Mayor Green addressed the public and outlined his first 100 days in office. The administration’s top priorities include the police hires as well as 15 patrol vehicles and more surveillance cameras throughout the city.