(EAST ORANGE/ORANGE, NJ) – On April 1, the East Orange and Orange community received sad news that a beloved Essex County community organizer passed away due to COVID-19.
Recently prominently featured in our inaugural TAPinto East Orange/Orange’s first “100 Women of Power and Progress” list, Gail Naidu Bell-Bonnette, was best known for organizing Caribbean cultural awareness campaigns and activities.
A proud Trinidadian and South African woman. She migrated to the United States in 1969 to Brooklyn, then Newark, followed by South Orange, but, it was in the City of East Orange that Gail finally found her home. In her career, Gail worked as a teacher, counselor, and property manager. In her spare time, she was a mentor to many young people.
Gail got her start bringing aid to neighborhoods in Newark. Volunteering with many organizations, she quickly arose as a leader.
Understanding there must be a partnership between grassroots initiatives and politics, Gail assisted federal elected officials like Congressman Donald Payne, Sr. and local leaders such as the first African-American Mayor of Newark, Kenneth Gibson. Gail expanded her political reach by making a point to also help many women in power in the City of East Orange through her involvement with the East Orange Democratic Committee.
Using her people skilled personality, Gail was famously known to be rich in her Trinidadian culture and deeply committed to teaching diversity to children:
She was one of the organizers of The East Orange Caribbean Festival for 21 years. This festival was the 2nd largest in the metropolitan area and attracted tens of thousands of people on any given year. Gail was also the primary organizer of the first-ever Republic of Trinidad & Tobago's flag-raising ceremony in the City of East Orange.
Understanding how sports is a great uniter of people, thirty-two years ago, Gail founded the TrinJersey soccer team that still exists and plays in tournaments today.
In 2015, Gail was one of the original committee members who worked to bring the first Essex County African Caribbean Festival to life. The goal of this festival was to bring black and brown people of the Diaspora together in "One Love" (an acknowledgment of Bob Marley), unity, and to cast away human-made divides rooted in slavery perpetuated by racism.
Always looking for places to lend a helping hand, each October, Gail would lead a team called, "The Caribbean Walkers" in the Newark Breast Cancer Walk. This activity was dear to Gale as a survivor of cancer herself.
While her service to the Oranges and Essex County was expansive over 40 years, Gail will be forever remembered in the hearts of those she touched. She is survived by her two children and host of family and friends. Since news of her passing spread, a public outpouring of love across social media has been building as a living memorial to a woman who lived life to the fullest for the greater good of humanity.
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