MONTCLAIR, NJ - With clear skies, Montclair was able to come together for the 27th Annual African American Heritage Parade and Festival on Saturday. The parade hosted by the Montclair African American Heritage Foundation, joined together various ages, churches, groups, and interests for the celebration.

Parade Grand Marshals for this year's event are New Jersey Assembly Speaker Emeritus Sheila Y. Oliver and former Montclair Deputy Mayor and retired Montclair Police Deputy Chief Roger S. Terry Sr. 

Retired Montclair educator Shirley Eason Williams, a lifelong Montclair resident, was also honored posthumously as Grand Marshal.

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As African Americans, Oliver and Terry both celebrated 'firsts' in their long respective careers, wiith Oliver becoming New Jersey's first African American Assembly speaker and first female and Terry beame Montclair's first African American Deputy Chief of Police.

Oliver was first elected to the Assembly in 2003 over the 34th Legislative District, which includes Montclair.

Oliver, a 1970 Weequahic High School graduate, was born and raised in Newark. She speaks of her childhood and Newark roots as her introduction into the world of community service. Having grown up living on the same block as New Jersey's first African American Congressman Donald Payne, Sr., Oliver often speaks of how Payne's passion for community service sparked the same passion in her. Oliver now resides in East Orange, a city also in her legislative district.

Oliver graduated cum laude with a B.A. from Lincoln University in 1974 in Sociology and was awarded an M.S. from Columbia University in Planning and Administration in 1976.

Oliver served on the East Orange Board of Education from 1994 to 2000, rising to Vice President then President. She also served on the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders for one term from 1996 to 1999. 

According to her bio, Oliver was one of the founders of the Newark Coalition for Low Income Housing, an organization that successfully sued the Newark Housing Authority and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development in federal court to block the demolition of all publicly subsidized low income housing in Newark. This was a pushback since there was no plan in place for the construction of replacement housing for low-income Newark residents.  Consequently, the Newark Housing Authority was then directed by a federal consent order to build one-for-one replacement housing for low-income residents.

Terry is a 3rd generation Montclair resident who has strong ties to the community. A 1968 Montclair High School graduate and star athlete, Terry began a career with the Montclair Police Department in 1973, having served for 35 years in various capacities until his retirement in 2008. Terry also attended Montclair State University.

He served the Montclair Police Department in various capacities, always maintaining a hands-on approach to policing. Terry rose through the ranks starting off as a patrolman, then moving on to the detective in the Juvenile Aid Bureau, Narcotics Bureau and the Detective Bureau, prior to becoming appointed Deputy Police Chief in 2004.

As an officer, Terry would personally become involved in the lives of at-risk youths to assist families and parents in distress in an attempt to assist wayward youth back onto the right path. During his tenure, he assisted in establishing the Montclair Police Athletic League.

After retirement, Terry then moved onto a stint in politics, having served on the Township Council as councilman and then Deputy Mayor.

Terry worked with the Junior League of Montclair and Newark and the Youth Advisory Board, having served as a board member for both. 

Groups who participated included: Montclair NAACP, Montclair Community Pre-K, Montclair Child Development Center, Montclair Board of Education, Nostalgic Auto Society of Montclair, Superior Sounds from Fort Greene, Brooklyn, Eureka Lodge 52, CCC Worship Center, PPAC, American Legions / VFW, Mt. Carmel Church, Montclair Drifters, East Orange Silver Steppers, and many more.

The MAAHF usually has a two-day celebration each year. On Friday night, the MAAHF hosted a meet and greet dance party at the George Inness Annex, where attendees danced the night away. Then on Saturday, it is the parade followed by a day-long festival filled with performances. 

Attendees were entertained by House Music pioneer CeCe Rogers, R&B singer Carl Brister and a memorial tribute to Montclair native and rapper Fatal Hussein also included perfprmances by his friends and fellow rappers.

There were also guest appearances by Tobias Truvillion of Empire, Alexis Morrast of Showtime at the Apollo, Cartier Conway of Showtime at the Apollo, and gospel artist Sychelle Elyse with Montclair native Eddie Nicholas as MC of the show. In between sets, a live DJ played the favorite tunes as people stood to their feet dancing.

The festival, which took over Nishuane Park, also included food vendors, and merchandise vendors.

The MAAHF made sure the children received special attention with two inflatable slides and a petting zoo with pony rides.

MAAHF member James Eason spoke of the activities for youth as a popular addition this year. Although there were always activities for children, this year, it was expanded to include pony rides, petting zoo, inflatable slides and a bounce house. He said, "We will expand our focus on the youth."

Overall it was a great day to be in Montclair with family, friends, and neighbors. 

More information can be found at http://MAAHF.org.