Montclair Dedicates Site of Washington Street Y

Montclair Dedicates Site of Washington Street Y
Posted on 05/20/2019
The Montclair community gathered at a dedication ceremony hosted by the Montclair Public Schools (MPS) at the Charles H. Bullock School on May 18, 2019 where a memorial plaque honoring the history and legacy of the Washington Street YMCA (WSY) was unveiled.

The ceremony included opening remarks from Superintendent Kendra V. Johnson, who provided a brief history of the Washington Street Y, performances by Hillside’s Drums of Thunder and Montclair High School’s Madrigal Choir, remarks from civic leaders and remarks from the WSY committee prior to the unveiling of the memorial plaque.

Since the WSY’s demolition in 2005 to make way for the Bullock School, a committee of Montclair community members who felt such a strong connection to their childhood “second home,” they lobbied the Montclair Board of Education to memorialize the WSY as a tribute to the way in which it helped to prepare boys and girls for civic life as adults. The Board recently voted unanimously to approve the dedication plaque.  

For many, the WSY served as a place where children felt safe and protected. It has been described as a “Beacon of Light” and a “North Star” in the Black community of Montclair for providing a complete array of programs and services that improved the well-being of individuals, families and Montclair’s African American Community as a whole. It is a little-known fact that for five cents, a non-member could get a clean towel and a shower. This was significant because most Black families did not have showers in their homes. The WSY also had the only local pool where Black people could swim, and it is believed that as many as 700 Black soldiers learned to swim there before going off to World War II.

Montclair leaders     Y committee member

Montclair choir performs    drums of thunder performs

Pictured above top row: Fourth Ward Councilwoman Dr. Renee Baskerville, WSY Committee Chair Elvoid A. Christmas, Montclair Superintendent Dr. Kendra V. Johnson, Senator Nia Gill; WSY Project Manager Karen Christmas Solomon

Bottom row: Montclair High School's Madrigal Choir, directed by Boyce Ennis; Hillside's Drums of Thunder, directed by Lou D'Amico

Read more about the history of the WSY and view the ceremony program.

View photos courtesy of Montclair Police Department Deputy Chief Wilhelm Young.

Watch video of the event. The dedication will also air on TV34 during the following times: Wednesdays - 7:30 pm, Fridays - 9:00 am and Sundays - 3:30 pm. 
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