Hillside NAACP celebrates first anniversary with gala

Nicole Graves-Watson

HILLSIDE, NJ — The Hillside NAACP has announced it will celebrate its one-year anniversary with a Freedom Fund Awards Gala on Friday, Nov. 4, from 8 p.m. to midnight, at Galloping Hill Caterers, 1085 Galloping Hill Road in Union. “We are marking our first-year anniversary by celebrating our community, our accomplishments and individuals that support our community,” said Nicole Graves-Watson, founder and president of the Hillside branch of the NAACP.

Nine community leaders will be honored during the Freedom Fund Gala: Richard T. Smith, president, NAACP New Jersey State Conference; Richard L. Smith, chief executive officer, Metro Media Associates; Angela Garretson, Union County commissioner; Shawn McClain, president, Elizabeth NAACP; the Rev. Christopher Michael Jones, senior pastor, First Baptist Church of Hillside and member of the Hillside NAACP; Sakina Smith, proprietor, Legacy Growney Funeral Home and member of the Hillside NAACP; and Monique Fletcher, Crystal Page and Tarajee Russell, all founding members of the Hillside NAACP.

Graves-Watson, a mother of two, wife and Hillside resident, became tired of witnessing systemic racism and inequality and wanted to do something. She began the process of forming a Hillside NAACP branch in March 2021. In summer 2021, after work and on weekends, Graves-Watson and her 11-year-old daughter, Ashley, met with residents to encourage them to become founding charter members. By Oct. 5, 2021, there were 105 founding charter members. The Hillside NAACP was chartered on Oct. 16, 2021.

The Hillside NAACP has worked on multiple projects over the past year, including advocating for the New Jersey Amistad Bill to be fully implemented in Hillside Public Schools. The bill, which became law in 2002, calls on New Jersey schools to incorporate African American history into their curriculum.

In collaboration with the Elizabeth NAACP, the Lesniak Institute for American Leadership and Kean University, the Hillside NAACP had a youth symposium on gun violence. The branch also partnered with First Baptist Church of Hillside to sponsor a jazz festival in Hillside and with the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice to host a public information session on redistricting.

The organization implemented the Charlotte Jones Black History Month Essay Contest for middle school students and looks forward to providing additional programs and services to the community.
Contact the Hillside NAACP at [email protected] for further information.

Photo Courtesy of Nicole Graves-Watson