(EAST ORANGE/ORANGE) – In an exclusive interview with Orange Councilwoman Donna K. Williams, and candidate for Mayor, TAPinto learned she fully recovered from COVID-19 and walked out of the hospital with three things on her mind: 1. Gratefulness to God and for the medical staff, 2. Helping put her mother to rest, and 3. Continuing her quest to become Orange’s first female Mayor.

When asked how her experience with COVID-19 went, she said, “I began to have a fever of 103, labored breathing, chills, and a few other symptoms.” She called her doctor, who prescribed her medicine that did not help. After being on the meds for days and the symptoms not improving, she called the ambulance. “It is simple, I was dying, I could not breathe, but I knew I had to pull through for all who rely on me, the citizens of Orange, my family, and yes, my mother.”

During her fight, she learned that her mother passed away due to pre-existing health conditions non-COVID-19 related. “It hurt that I could not be there by her bedside after taking care of her for so many years, but God had other plans. My mother knew how much I loved her because I showed her every day. I am grateful for her influence on me. She was the best mother any person could want. My mother, Francis Williams, a retired Essex County social worker, went above and beyond for her clients. It was not uncommon for me to come home to see her caring for an abused child who had nowhere to go. My mother was a community giant, speaking truth to power, standing up for what is right, and making no apologies for pointing out wrong against the people’s interest in Orange. She is why I will always put people first.”

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Councilwoman Donna K. Williams fought for her life for about three weeks before being released from the hospital. “I am glad God’s plans aligned with mine to continue to live. My heartfelt condolences go out to all of those who have lost loved ones to this nasty virus.”

When asked what helped get her through a time many would have felt defeated, especially after hearing her mother died, she said, “the medical staff at St. Barnabas is amazing.”

Before recalling the names of each of the medical team involved in her recovery, Donna spoke of the hospital workers as superheroes. “Ray was one of my nurses, then there was Alex from Belleville, two Maggies, one from West Orange and the other from Piscataway, and I can not forget the Director of Nursing and Patient Care Services, and Cardiac, Imma Nosike who is originally from Nigeria; I was able to tell Imma of my recent travels to her native land. Ironically, Director Imma also took care of my mother when she broke her hip and was back and forth to St. Barnabas until March.”

Donna went on to say, “It is hard to fight for your life in a hospital alone, with no family or friends able to be there…then to learn your matriarch has transitioned…it was hard. However, I got through it with God and the healthcare workers. And hey, the women in the Williams family do not back down from hard tasks, we conquer them. Knowing my mother wanted me to keep my eye on the vision for Orange that is greater than myself and become Mayor, I pushed on.”

When asked how experiencing COVID-19 first hand changed her views about the needs of the community, Councilwoman Donna K. Williams said, “I am always working to help people, and have kept a people-first agenda in the 12 years I sat on Council. Because of this pandemic, many of the economic, civil, and human rights policies I have worked on, established, or tried to get done are even more pressing to achieve. My views have not changed, rather they have been enhanced and even validated by the virus. Because of the virus, we have a greater opportunity to fix food insecurities, to close the digital divide by giving people access to the internet and technology, to help small businesses, improve senior services, housing policies, and many other things that I have fought to do for so long. I survived to rise to the challenge.”

In response to being asked what she believes will be Orange’s greatest need, Councilwoman Donna K. Williams stated,  “Orange will need to be rebuilt starting from the physical and mental health of our neighbors who have been traumatized by this virus, the loss of life, and the loss of physical connections around them. At the same time, we must also address the economic fallout during and after COVID-19. There is a bill in the Assembly by Britnee Timberlake, which I wholeheartedly support. The bill requires statewide rent suspension and mortgage forbearance for individuals and small businesses who need it. Newark and East Orange Mayors Ras Baraka and Ted Green have come out in support of this bill, and I am too. This virus has caused hardship for many people, no one should fear to lose the roof over their heads during or after COVID.”  

Councilwoman Williams continued to answer the question by saying, “many people in Orange have been told their jobs or businesses are “non-essential” and have been laid-off or forced to close. I agree with the Governor’s Executive Orders to close shops to flatten the curve. I met COVID-19 personally. Trust me, staying alive is more important than going to work or paying a bill. We must stay home to flatten the curve to save lives. However, I look forward to repairing the economic destruction COVID-19 has brought to families and local businesses in Orange. People must be able to conquer economic challenges by receiving the assistance needed from all levels of government, from 29 N. Day Street to Trenton to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., with nonprofit and for-profit corporations in partnership. We are going to need to rebuild Orange, another renaissance…using creative strategies. This is not a time for politics or business, as usual, we need to deal with the aftermath of a viral war, which has brought on an economic one. We are going to need proven leadership that people in and outside of Orange can trust to lead the charge. We need leaders with a proven record of putting the needs of people of Orange first. My Team Orange running mates and I are the leaders who can bring all parties together to move Orange forward and thrive.”

Councilwoman Donna K. Williams is running for Mayor on the Team Orange 2020 slate with team members running for At-Large City Council, Antoinett A. Hall, and Weldon Montague, III.

When asked if she had anything else to add, she said, “Use what’s in your hand. Today I was inspired by a story about a farmer in Kansas who found five medical-grade masks. He sent a letter to Gov. Cuomo saying he was keeping four for his family and wanted to give the one left to a nurse from NY. Everyone can help during this time. Just like God said to Moses, I am saying it to all of you, ‘use what’s in your hand’. Do what you can do to help. No justice is too small.”

The election for Orange Mayor and Council will be vote-by-mail due to COVID-19. Registered voters should have received their vote-by-mail ballots in the mail. To vote, voters must fill out and sign the form, then mail it back postmarked on or before May 12, 2020.

In the past, TAP reported, after much deliberation about making a run for city council again or pursuing the mayoral seat, Donna launched her campaign on March 17 for Mayor. At the launch, People’s Organization for Progress’, Larry Hamm, was there to endorse her and the slate. Donna K. Williams has been long speculated to be a top contender in the crowded race against incumbent Mayor Dwayne Warren. Donna has been the number one vote-getter in two past Orange council elections. 

Here at TAP, we send condolences for all who have been lost during this time and hope for healing for everyone afflicted with COVID-19. 

TAPinto East Orange/Orange is an online newspaper serving East Orange and Orange as a part of a network of more than 80 franchised local news sites in NY, NJ, and FL. TAPinto recently won 3 of 5 excellence in local journalism awards by the Center for Cooperative Media in NJ. We are accredited by the NJ State Police, which is done through the New Jersey Press Association in which we are long-standing members. We take pride in providing the community with objective news, fact-finding reporting while featuring positive stories and awareness campaigns daily.

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