FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, NJ - Hundreds gathered Saturday to celebrate the 46th annual "Week of the People Community in Unity" celebration at Naaman Williams Park. This year's celebration focused on bringing about positive change by bringing families together before the start of a new school year. Back-to-School essentials were provided to children in grades K-12, and many local community partners and supporters provided information and resources for parents.

"Saturday showed a community and neighborhood what it takes to work together," Week of the People, Treasurer, Benjamin Guy III said.  "The Week of the People's Community in Unity program "Back to School" initiative was about giving hope, history, and direction to a place that people have written off as hopeless. It is time for a new generation of leaders, social groups and philanthropic organizers to bridge the gap for a community that needs it."

During the event, attendees had the opportunity to see live entertainment, visit different food vendors, participate in sports competitions, enjoy a pony ride, and some even had the chance to get Deputy Mayor Carl Wright wet in a dunking booth. 

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The day kicked off with a dedication ceremony honoring the namesake of the park Naaman Williams with a plaque. Lieutenant Naaman Williams, was Franklin Township Police Department’s first African American police officer, who served from 1949 to 1976. Williams' great granddaughters Jonique Waddy and Jalissa Ratliff were on hand to talk about their great grandfather. Councilwoman At-Large Kimberly Francois (D), read the proclamation, and Detective, Kenneth Daly gave the dedication. The Williams family and former Mayor, Nancy Henry reflected on the accomplishments of Lt. Williams. 

Gina Bowser and Monique Brown led a balloon release ceremony honoring the deaths of both of their sons, Zakee Bowser, and Troy Brown along with other attendees that lost someone to violence. 

"Why can't we love each other, why do we kill each other if we love maybe we wouldn't kill," Bowser said. "In reality, we are all family, you need to turn to the person next to you and say we family if you need something I got your back. We need to start loving and stop the funerals, stop the violence and stop the murders."

This year the "Week of the People" event was a celebration for one day, but the board of trustees is working on developing partnerships with other community organizations to bring the program back to running for a full week. 

"The Week of the People board is committed to re-establishing all inroads for organizations, business leaders, and community partners that are focused on the lives of the residents in Franklin Township," Guy said. "Saturday was a start, like Naamim Williams, did with the police force to show others how to work with people you might fear and not understand, but make something magical happen if you believe in it and truly put the work in."

Click here to see Facebook Live video of the event. 

The Somerset Community Action Program and the Week of the People Organization Board of Trustees thanked the following local/county agencies and businesses for their support, partnership, donations, and sponsorship: 

Investors Bank; PSE&G; Saint Peter’s Healthcare Systems; Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital; Bristol-Myers Squibb; A&T Mechanical; P.I.M. Brands, LLC; Hamilton Street Business District; Frank’s Building Supplies; Township Pharmacy; ProCure Proton Therapy; Barrood Agency, Inc.; Magyar Bank; Crunch Fitness Somerset; Franklin Youth Initiative (FYI); Hub City Music Management; Divas & Gents; Grades4Life; NY Jets; NY Giants; McDonalds Easton Avenue; Stop & Shop; Shop Rite; Venus Jewelers; BJ’s; Costco; Franklin Township Community; Franklin Township Human Relations Commission; Franklin Township Department of Parks & Recreation; Franklin Township Police Department, and Franklin Township Mayor and Council.

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