The trustees and staff of the South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver. She recognized the work of the Coalition on Race as a vital model of community activism and our towns as works in progress toward true racial inclusion and equity. We are grateful for the work she did as a public servant advocating for social justice, women’s rights, and affordable housing.
We were especially grateful for her presence at our events over the years, including as our keynote speaker at the 17th Annual Dr. King Observance in 2019. Lt. Governor Oliver’s speech touched on the remarkable short amount of time Martin Luther King, Jr. lived and yet in 13 short years he changed the course of humanity across the world. She reminded us that Dr. King’s movement was based on several principles: moral power, non-violence, appeal to faith, a call to civil disobedience of unjust laws and a plea for full equality—persuasion versus coercion. The history of our social and civil rights movement in America grew out of faith leaders and their leadership as they fought against ignorance: the root of the violation of human, civil, and gender rights.
Speaking of the residual impacts of generations of slavery and how the Black community can use the strengths of the past to heal in the present, Oliver shared, “One of the challenges that we have in combatting violence and moving everyone towards non-violence is teaching more people in our country that we must be accepting of all ideologies, even if we don’t agree with them. That is a very difficult thing to do, but I know we can do it.” We take these words to heart as we mourn Lt. Governor Oliver’s loss, and as we carry her commitment to equity and justice forward in our work.