Essex County News

SOMA Celebrates Pride with Painted Lampposts in South Orange and Crosswalks in Maplewood

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Painted crosswalks in Maplewood
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Painted lampposts in South Orange
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SOUTH ORANGE AND MAPLEWOOD, NJ - Earlier this month, Maplewood celebrated Pride by painting rainbow crosswalks outside of Town Hall at the intersection of Oakview Avenue and Valley Street, which were unveiled with a celebration and ribbon cutting on Thursday, June 6.

Inspired by the Maplewood crosswalks, on Thursday evening, June 21, South Orange recognized Pride month by having community members join together to paint rainbow stripes on six lamp posts in Spiotta Park on South Orange Avenue.

As South Orange Village President Sheena Collum put it on her Facebook page, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Thank you Maplewood for being an inspiration [with your] pride crosswalks initiative."

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In Maplewood, the crosswalks are painted in the eight colors of the original rainbow Pride Flag. In South Orange, the lampposts are painted in the "Philadelphia" Pride Flag, which was created in 2017 and added black and brown stripes below the traditional six-color rainbow layout, to highlight racial diversity, according to an article in Philadelphia Magazine when the flag was first displayed.

According to Bob Zuckerman, Executive Director of the South Orange Village Center Alliance (SOVCA), the Philadelphia Flag was chosen because it "seemed best for our community."

The South Orange lampposts were painted by members of the community, with many coming out to lend a hand including children and teens. South Orange resident Scott Greenstone was the primary organizer of the event, with assistance provided by the SOVCA.

In Maplewood, the crosswalks will remain year-round, and as they are on an Essex County road required county approvals. Maplewood Committee Member Dean Dafis, who led the project, thanked Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca, other committee members, the engineering department, and the county and state for working together for the crosswalk to "become a reality."

Shannon Cuttle, a member of SOMA Action and the LGBTQ community, spoke at the Maplewood event earlier this month sharing “Love is Love. We stand together against all kinds of hate. The new crosswalk signifies hate is NOT welcome here. You matter, are loved and are welcome.”

In South Orange, the rainbow lampposts are expected to remain throughout the summer, though no final decision has been made beyond that, said Zuckerman.

Greenstone shared that the lampposts were chosen in part because they were able to be painted without needing approvals, so that the project could be completed during Pride month.

However, with plenty more lead time before next June, Greenstone is looking into various ideas for something else in South Orange that might be more permanent.

South Orange Village President Sheena Collum posted to her Facebook page her appreciation for all who helped paint the lampposts, writing "thanks to everyone who joined us for the pride lamppost paintings in Spiotta Park, especially the kids who did such a beautiful job."

"Every stroke of color is a sign of acceptance, pride, and a celebration of love," wrote Collum.

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