Empowering our communities to thrive is at the core of what we do. That’s why, in 2020, Valley Bank was proud to support the commission of a new mural by the Northern New Jersey Community Foundation (NNJCF) in Englewood, New Jersey to celebrate the impact of Black women on the women’s rights movement and in Bergen County.
“The Black Women’s Mural: Celebrating Black Suffragists and Black Women in Englewood,” was commissioned on the east-facing wall of the Women’s Rights Information Center (WRIC) and was publicly unveiled on November 14, 2022.
The mural honors the role that Black women played in the suffrage movement, a decades-long crusade to end voter suppression and guarantee the right to vote for all. The project’s commissioning in 2020 held great significance, as it coincided with the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, a hallmark piece of legislation that ratified women’s constitutional right to vote.
New Jersey women – and Black women in particular – played an integral role in the movement, founding organizations like the New Jersey chapter of the National Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs, that provided a haven for Black women to advocate for universal suffrage.
“Black women played an integral role in the suffrage movement in New Jersey and across the country. That contribution has helped to empower women not only around the country but around the world. This mural pays homage to those fearless women and recognizes their tireless efforts and countless sacrifices for our republic and modern society,” said Kenneth Bland, Business Portfolio Manager at Valley and member of the NNJCF’s Board of Directors. “It’s an honor to sit on the board of an organization that prioritizes highlighting the contribution of Black women to the women’s suffrage movement and to work for a bank that supports and provides resources for these types of initiatives.”
In addition to helping fund the creation of the mural, Valley also supported the selection process for the mural’s artist, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, a Black-Iranian visual artist, as well as two educational workshops where more than 150 community members learned about the history of Black women suffragists and voting rights.
The mural was conceived as part of NNJCF’s ArtsBergen initiative to create public art projects to promote community, belonging, and civil discourse within Bergen County. In addition to the support it received from Valley, the project was also funded by AARP NJ and other organizations, with outreach help from community partners WRIC, the Metro Community Center, The Women’s Club of Englewood, and the League of Women Voters.
“The location of the mural in the center of one of Bergen County’s most heavily trafficked downtowns attaches value and meaning to the mural’s recognition of the momentous activism of the Black women suffragists and Black women in the city, and helps generate pride and ownership of place,” said Danielle De Laurentis, Associate Director, Northern New Jersey Community Foundation. “We are thankful to Valley Bank and all of our partners for their support of the mural, which serves as a platform and beacon for the culture, histories, and voices of Black women in the community.”
Michael Shannon, President of the Foundation, added: “I want to reinforce Danielle’s statement of appreciation to Valley Bank for its essential assistance in creating this mural. Its message, that the spirit of women who championed social justice in years past is being advanced in the dedicated work of women today, is a critical one for people to see, hear, and understand at this particular precarious time in our history.”
Valley’s support of the mural corresponded with its support of the Women’s Rights Information Center through its Financial Empowerment program that helps WRIC clients improve their financial literacy through an 8-week interactive series.
Both the program and the mural underscore Valley’s commitment to empower the communities it serves.