ELIZABETH – State Sen. Raymond J. Lesniak (D-Elizabeth) criticized Gov. Chris Christie and praised President Barack Obama in his remarks at a flag-raising ceremony on Monday at City Hall to commemorate the start of African-American History Month in Elizabeth.
“The importance of African American History Month was underscored just last week when New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie said, ‘The fact of the matter is I think people would have been happy to have a referendum on civil rights rather than fighting and dying in the streets in the South,’” Lesniak said.
“Civil Rights leader John Lewis gave Governor Christie a much needed lesson in African American history when he responded, ‘We would never have won with a referendum; it took actions of Congress and Presidential executive orders to bring down those signs that said ‘colored only’ and ‘whites only.’’
“Our Governor needs more than a lesson in civil rights – he needs a lesson in being civil. He called President Obama ‘probably the weakest president I’ve seen ….’ Well, I don’t think Osama Bin Laden would agree with that statement. Nor would the hostages recently saved from being held in captivity by pirates and those saved in 2009 by the President’s bold decisions.
“It also took a strong president to save the automobile industry from bankruptcy and the jobs of tens of thousands of workers.
“Governor Christie, I’m proud to have Barack Obama as my president and I’m looking forward to four more years of his strong leadership.
“But President Obama would not be president without the achievements of tens, hundreds and thousands of African Americans who paved the way for his presidency, some of whom are in this room today and others of whom lived in the City of Elizabeth.
“Chessie Roberts comes immediately to my mind. My 9th grade homeroom teacher was the secretary for the Elizabeth Branch of the NAACP. She taught me African American history long before we started celebrating African American History Month.
“Charlie Harris also comes immediately to my mind. When he ran for Elizabeth council at large as my running mate, he made it clear he was going to campaign throughout the city, not just in areas that had a majority of African American voters. By that campaign, Charlie Harris paved the way for Patricia Perkins-Auguste to be our Councilwoman at Large – just as Elizabeth football standout Gil Chapman paved the way for Bill Gallman to be our 5th Ward Councilman.
“And there are many, many others, Steve Sampson, Shade Lee, Thelma Hurd, Debra Dixon, Rev. Joseph Garlic. The list goes on and on. In Elizabeth, we don’t have to look far or long to learn about African American History. We just have to look at our friends and neighbors,” Lesniak concluded.
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