NJEA member and New Brunswick teacher Shan Byrd received the Bugg Foundation’s Ella Baker Award at its Amistad Gala on Feb. 20 for her dedication to educating and serving the community. The NJEA was one of the sponsors of the gala, which featured Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver as the keynote speaker.
Byrd was among 12 honorees. Each Bugg Foundation award is named after a leader in civil rights and African-American history to preserve the memory of individuals beyond Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. According to the Ella Baker Center for Civil Rights, Baker was an activist who worked with some of the best-known civil rights leaders of the 20th century, but she encouraged grassroots movements rather than professional leadership. In 1960, she organized a meeting at Shaw University of students who were engaged in lunch counter protests. From this meeting, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was formed. Learn more about Baker at ellabakercenter.org.
Byrd represents Middlesex County on the NJEA’s Minority Leadership and Recruitment Committee. She is an NJEA Professional Development Consultant and a graduate of the NJEA Bolivar L. Graham Practical Learning Program. She is a leader of the NJEA REAL movement. Recently, Byrd hosted an Earth Day program at McKinley Community School in New Brunswick.
The Bugg Foundation, among its many goals, strives to generate community interest in supporting the implementation of the Amistad program in schools.
Founder Jeanette Bugg lost her granddaughter to gun violence in Paterson. Inspired that no more grandparents mourn their grandchildren over violence, she founded the Bugg Foundation to make city parks havens of nonviolence. According to Sharrieff Bugg, Mrs. Bugg’s son, five parks have been beautified by Bugg Foundation volunteers. The foundation contacts gang members to let them know that these parks should be safe spaces for children to play. Gang members even participated in cleaning up the park and planting.
One of the five parks, previously named Vreeland Triangle, has been renamed Amistad Park, in part due to the work of the Bugg Foundation.
The foundation is currently raising funds for projects that will advance the Amistad program. This includes a wall on New Jersey’s black history. This mobile project can be set up in neighborhood parks. People can browse it and learn more about African American history in Paterson, New Jersey, USA and the Amistad. Another project, the Amistad Center will be a permanent space where visitors can discover the history of Amistad and African-Americans.
To learn more, email the Bugg Foundation at [email protected]