rb gop balloons 101914Legos with legs were among the parade participants who accepted GOP balloons from candidate Linda Schwabenbauer, below. (Photo above by Peter Lindner. Click to enlarge)


schwabenbauer 101914A Menna Administration official and a Republican council candidate clashed at Sunday’s Red Bank Halloween Parade over campaign balloons.

GOP contender Linda Schwabenbauer said she believed she was exercising a First Amendment right and had borough authorization when she gave away about 200 balloons bearing her name and that of running mate Sean Di Somma to children and adults before the start of the parade.

But Parks and Recrecreation department director Memone Crystian told her to stop, threatening to call the police if she continued, she said.

Administration officials dispute the claim that they’d OK’d a balloon distribution, and contend they have the law on their side in asking Schwabenbauer to stop.

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JuliaAlvarezAuthor Julia Alvarez is among the special guests taking part in the slate of events for The Big Read 2014, beginning this Monday and centered around her novel IN THE TIME OF THE BUTTERFLIES. Inset: art by Carlos Frias.

Carlos Frias artThe setting is specific: the Dominican Republic, during the time of the brutal dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo. The themes, however, are universal — freedom, equality, human rights.

Inspired by the 1960 murders of the three Mirabal sisters, and marking the 20th anniversary of its original publication this year, the novel In the Time of the Butterflies becomes the centerpiece of the second annual Big Read campaign at locations in and around the Lincroft campus of Brookdale Community College.

Beginning on Monday, October 6 (and “keynoted” with a late-innings appearance by the novel’s author Julia Alvarez), The Big Read 2014 is organized by The Center for Holocaust, Human Rights & Genocide Education (Chhange) at BCC, in partnership with the National Endowment of the Arts and its “initiative to revitalize the role of reading in American popular culture and inspire all citizens, young and old, to participate,” in the words of Chhange Coordinator Deborah Degnan.

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philyyTom Hanks’ Oscar winning star turn in PHILADELPHIA screens for free on Tuesday night, capping an evening of Two River Pride at the Count Basie. 

Cynics insisted that filmmaker Jonathan Demme only took on the sensitive project known as Philadelphia to atone for Silence of the Lambs and its cross-dressing, mean-tucking serial killer. But all was forgiven by no less an authority than Oscar, when the 1993 drama — one of the first Hollywood productions to address HIV/AIDS and homophobia — earned a Best Actor award for Tom Hanks, as well as a Best Original Song trophy for Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets Of Philadelphia.”

The film comes to the big screen of the Count Basie Theatre on Tuesday, June 10, as the latest in a long-running series of free features — a screening that also caps the 2014 edition of the annual gathering known as Two River Pride.

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MennaZuckermanRed Bank Mayor Pat Menna delivers a special proclamation, and Josh Zuckerman provides the live music, as the annual Two River Pride event comes to the Count Basie on June 10.

Press release from Count Basie Theatre

On the evening of Tuesday, June 10, the Count Basie Theatre will be the setting for Two River Pride, an annual Pride Month gathering that was created for LGBTQ youth and their allies — and that centers on LGBTQ history and celebration, by giving specific voice to area youth.

The event represents a partnership between local civic, cultural, and community leaders and groups, including Red Bank Councilman Ed Zipprich, Make It Better for Youth and others. Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna will attend, to deliver a proclamation in recognition of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month. This year’s event will also feature live music, a sampling of wares from some of Red Bank’s food purveyors, and screenings of three acclaimed shorts from young filmmakers.

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TroubleInMindBrenda Pressley takes center stage as Willetta, a 1950’s African American actress at work on a play-within-a-play, as TROUBLE IN MIND continues through the weekend at Two River Theater. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson) 

You don’t need much if any direct experience with the Business of Show to reckon that the process of putting something on the stage — the tectonic shift of strong egos, the conflicts and the compromises, the whole backstage pageant — can often be way more compelling than the show itself.

It’s a concept that was grasped beautifully by the late Alice Childress in Trouble in Mind, the comedy-drama that opened last week at Red Bank’s Two River Theater and continues through the weekend (including a 3 p.m. matinee Easter Sunday) in a dynamite production directed by Jade King Carroll.

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horgan burnham 022614Councilwoman Cindy Burnham, right, listens as Councilwoman Kathy Horgan reads an Environmental Commission resolution that denounced any move to privatize Red Bank’s water utility. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)


New Red Bank Councilwoman Cindy Burnham‘s recent suggestion that the town sell its water utility got a thorough hosing Wednesday night.

Two weeks after discussion of $2.2 million capital improvement bond prompted Burnham to call for privatization of the water system, Burnham sat stone silent through a critique of the idea Wednesday night – and then voted in favor of the bond.

By Thursday morning, though, the council’s lone Republican was talking again, calling opposition to her suggestion an “attack” by the Democratic majority.

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rb equality 021014 2On the panel were longtime housing advocate Flo Apy, at left above; former borough Councilwoman Sharon Lee; and Monmouth University history professor Walter Greason. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

rb equality 021014 1Dozens of listeners turned out at the Bates Lodge in Red Bank Monday night for a panel discussion on the continuing struggle for racial equality in America.

With its mixed neighborhoods and ownership of businesses by African-Americans, “Red Bank in the 1950s was a hallmark of what was possible in terms of integration,” said Monmouth University history professor Walter Greason, one of three panelists.

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GreasonSharonGildaMonmouth University professor Walter D. Greason, former Red Bank council member Sharon Lee, and Frank Talk’s Gilda Rogers are among the guest panelists discussing “The Fight for Equality in Red Bank in the 1950s and Today,” during a February 10 event at the Red Bank Elks Lodge.

Press release from Two River Theater Company

“The Fight for Equality in Red Bank in the 1950s — and Today” is the topic of a free panel discussion event on Monday, February 10, presented by Two River Theater Company and hosted at the Red Bank Elks Lodge #233, 40 West Front Street.

The 7 pm panel is the first in a series of Inside Two River humanities programs that will focus on race, the Civil Rights movement, and evolving issues of equality under the umbrella title Exploration of Justice. Panels will take place monthly in connection with Two River Theater’s production of Trouble in Mind, written by Alice Childress —the first African-American woman to have a play professionally produced in New York City. The play, directed by Jade King Carroll, will run April 5 through 24.

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literary vixens 1‘Literary Vixens’ Jacqueline Tobacco (left) and Melissa Bartolone flank author Suzanne Palmieri during her reading at Red Bank’s Lambs and Wolves salon earlier this month. (Photos by Alexis Orlacchio. Click to enlarge)


literary vixens 2Author Suzanne Palmieri believes in magic.

Not the “pull a rabbit out of a hat” kind of magic. The kind, she told an audience on a recent Friday night in Red Bank, that happened when she learned, while trying to budget her daughter’s college tuition. that an Italian company had bought the foreign rights to her book, ‘The Witch of Little Italy.’ The kind that happens when a fan, who happens to live five minutes away, turns into a close friend.

“I’ve made a lot of friends like that,” she said. “I didn’t know when I wrote the book that it would tap into something bigger.”

Hoping to create that kind of magic for other writers of edgy, sexy fiction is Literary Vixens, a publishing concern that began when friends Jacqueline Tobacco of Middletown and Melissa Bartolone of Red Bank reunited through social media over their love of books.

With Lauren DeVito, Literary Vixens promote, as their tagline says, “smart books for passionate readers.” What started out as a book blog is transforming into a publishing agency, and the ladies hope to hand pick a few marketable authors to work with.

“We knew we wanted [the name] to be a combination of smart and daring,” said Tobacco. “‘Vixen’ means we’re a little bit more edgy in our reading, a little bit more sophisticated.”

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Smoking could be banned, or segregated, in borough parks and at parades. (Click to enlarge)


Fair Haven’s borough council engaged in a lively discussion about the pros and cons of banning smoking in parks Monday night.

“It’s a hazardous, offensive habit that doesn’t need to be in public,” said Councilwoman Susan Sorenson, liaison to the recreation commission, which has also been discussing the issue.
“What’s next?” replied Councilman Rowland Wilhelm, a smoker. “I understand it’s negative [behavior]. But you go down that slippery slope, and it opens the door for another governing body to come along and ban something else – sugary drinks maybe.”
“I’m going to vote no, because you’re opening a door that shouldn’t be opened,” he said.

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Vanessa Cameron, David Ramos and Christina Mekheil at the Gayla prom held at RFH Friday night. (Photo by Sarah Klepner. Click to enlarge)


About 100 high school students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender and their straight allies gathered for a dance party in the cafeteria at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional on Friday night.

It was the third annual Gayla!, a prom-like event organized by Make It Better for Youth, a consortium which includes Monmouth County high schools, Jersey Shore PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), the county library system, the Two River Theater, and the Monmouth County Arts Council.

“What’s great about this is that you don’t go in feeling pressured to fit into any prom stereotype,” said Ellie Halfacre, RFH senior, member of the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance and event organizer. “It’s not about what sexuality you are, it’s about being with people who accept you no matter what.

“Everyone’s here to have fun and just be themselves,” she said, adding that many friendships had grown out of the prior two Gayla gatherings.

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Zakiyah Godsey, left, and Natashsa Cargill of the Red Bank branch of the Boys & Girls Club of Monmouth County write letters to girls featured in the documentary film ‘Girl Rising,’ which promotes the spotlights the limited educational opportunities of girls around the world, with particular focus on societies in which women are repressed.

Along with 10 other young women, Zakiyah and Natasha attended a private screening, organized by the Sierra Club, at Monmouth Mall. “It was a very emotional experience,” said Boys and Girls Club director Christy Clark. “The girls kept talking about it.” In response, the girls have launched a pen pal exchange and plan to donate school supplies.

‘Girl Rising’ will be screened at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High on Wednesday, May 22 at 6 p.m. Admission is $5. (Photo by Sarah Klepner. Click to enlarge)


A commemoration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Pilgrim Baptist Church featured musical performances and readings by students from local schools. Below, Red Bank Charter School students went on a silent march downtown in honor of King’s message of peace.  (Photos by Danielle Tepper. Click to enlarge)


Monday was a day of celebrations as students from Red Bank area schools offered tributes to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the 84th anniversary of his birth.

Pilgrim Baptist Church on Shrewsbury Avenue hosted a Community Commemorative Celebration with an open-ended an invitation extended to anyone wishing to join in the event.

Due to a large number of performances, “it was a little on the longer side” said Pastor Terrence Porter. “Because we wanted to make sure we included all the kids.” Read More »


“The heat of her breath fills the hollows of my bones with helium and lifts my ribcage just long enough to feel again.” That’s how Chris Hennessy, 19, of Oceanport, began her poem ‘Helium’ at Two River Pride, Red Bank’s first celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transexual youth at the Two River Theater Wednesday night.

“It’s difficult not to get emotional when pouring my rage and confusion and hope out to an audience of strangers, only to realize just by the looks on their faces that they feel that pain too, that none of us are alone anymore,” Hennessy said.

Her poetry was followed by two hours of performances from youth and musical groups, such as the Giving Voice Choir (above). (Photo by Danielle Tepper. Click to enlarge)


Pat Barr, a self-described “anti-demonstration demonstrator,” tells fellow humanists about her experiences as pro-choice picketer. (Click to enlarge)


In a presentation heavy on how labels are deployed in political battles, Irma Lester wondered aloud whether the term “war” correctly describes what she sees as a recent stripping of reproductive and economic rights from women.

Despite the harsh connotation of a battlefield, she said it “does catch the sense of danger that we’re in today.”

Lester, a professor emeritus of women’s studies at Brookdale Community College women’s, appeared before the Red Bank Humanists on Sunday at the Red Bank Charter School as the special guest speaker for its June forum: “The War on Women: Myth or Reality?”

Whatever terminology backers of women’s rights use to describe themselves and their causes, their conservative opponents are “going to demonize” them, Lester said. “Stick with ‘feminist.’ Stick with ‘abortion.'”

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The June 20 event, at the Two River Theater, will feature an open mic for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youths to tell their stories. (Click to enlarge)


Joining the ranks of cities and towns across America, Red Bank is set to hold Two River Pride, its first-ever community event to commemorate the struggles and accomplishments of the gay community.

Ed Zipprich, the borough’s first openly gay elected official, tells redbankgreen that Two River Pride is a response to  inquiries from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals about the absence of events during June, designated as LGBT Pride Month to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan that sparked the gay rights movement.

“For years, we’ve been asked why we don’t do an event, and it’s because no one ever took the initiative to start one,” he said. “So Kathy Horgan and I put our heads together,” he said of his fellow member of the borough council.

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Councilwoman Sharon Lee, wearing a hoodie in memory of Trayvon Martin, talks with Mayor Pasquale Menna before Wednesday night’s council meeting. (Click to enlarge)


Three Red Bank council members wore hooded garments to Wednesday night’s bimonthly meeting as a local group put out word of a silent vigil next week in memory of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.

A poster for the event, called “We Are Trayvon Martin,” encourages attendees to wear hoodies, the type of sweatshirt that Martin was wearing when he was killed in an encounter with a gun-toting resident of Sanford, Florida a month ago.

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inclusive-signRed Bank has adopted a diversity statement as a “tremendous strength and asset to the community.” (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)


The Red Bank Human Relations Committee must’ve thought it had all its bases covered when it drafted a diversity statement and sent it along to the borough council for adoption last week.

But even though it was a “wonderful gesture,” said resident Stephen Mitchell, the statement, which highlights the borough’s acceptance of diversity, was missing one contingent to make it fully embracing: non-believers.

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NAACP 052609NAACP Red Bank chapter president Rev. Henry P. Davis quotes Jefferson to Mayor Pasquale Menna.

Red Bank's governing body recently honored what Mayor Pasquale Menna called "one of our anchor institutions," the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The occasion was the passage of a resolution by the borough council noting this year's hundredth anniversary of the national organization.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal," chapter President Henry P. Davis told Menna at a borough hall ceremony, quoting from the Declaration of Independence.

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The Laramie Project‘ is back in Monmouth County — minus, so far, any hint of the outrage that made it a hot topic last year in Ocean Township.

That’s when the high school principal and the district superintendent tried putting the kibbosh on a planned production as potentially offensive to playgoers.

But the play about the 1998 murder of Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard because of his homosexuality went on, minus some expletives. It also nabbed the ‘Basie’ award for Outstanding Dramatic Production among high school plays last May from the Count Basie Theatre Foundation.

Starting tomorrow night, the Visual and Performing Arts Academy at Red Bank Regional High School will stage a production of the play to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the events that inspired it.

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Rb_inclusiveSome redbankgreen readers gave the sign a chilly welcome when it was installed in the spring.

Last time we wrote about Red Bank’s new inclusive community sign, in June, it set off quite a barrage of adverse commentary.

Critics called it ugly and unnecessary, an example of political correctness run amok. A member of the Human Relations Committee, which procured the sign at no cost, defended it as “an overt declaration to all who enter our fair Borough of the pride we feel in our community.”

Well, here we are again, to report that on Friday, the sign will be dedicated at Veteran’s Park, the tiny triangle at West Front Street and Riverside Avenue.

It’ll be interesting to see who shows up at the 10a event, and whether any of them will be objectors.

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Img_9577The new sign, visible from Route 35/Riverside Avenue heading south across West Front Street.

A welcome sign that the Red Bank Human Relations Committee bought got for free earlier this year to promote community togetherness has been posted at Veteran’s Park, the triangle at Riverside Avenue and West Front Street.

We’re not sure if this is a sign of widespread weirded-outness, but two redbankgreen readers who wrote in last week to tell us the sign was up both sensed something odd about it.

Said Alicia Woods:

It sounds like an ad for a gated community…or an apartment complex……anybody else think it is strange, or am I the only one?

Well, no, in fact. When told what Alicia had said, Jim Willis (who had also written in to tell us he’s just noticed it) replied:

It did feel a little like I was entering some weird kind of government-sponsored ‘don’t ask-don’t tell’ zone.

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Img_3694Four-year old Maya Williams, center, examines a display at the one-night Black History Month exhibit last night. Maya was joined by her sister Kayla, 10, at left and Amani Cureton, also 10.

About 150 people gathered Wednesday evening at the River Street Commons for a Black History Month event with unmistakable local ties.

Framed by depictions of African-American life in the mass media, the event focused on the life and work of T. (Timothy) Thomas Fortune, a pioneering African-American journalist who was born a a slave and lived on what is now Drs. James Parker Boulevard. Preservationists are hoping to save the house.

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Today’s Sunday Star-Ledger has an extensive piece about the black activist journalist T. (Timothy) Thomas Fortune and the effort to save his longtime Red Bank home from the wrecking ball — or, as the article’s author puts it, “from predatory developers.”

The story’s not online; so far, it appears only in the print version’s Perspective section.

Authored by Claire Serant, a journalism professor at St. John’s University, the article notes that Fortune was born a slave in 1856, wrote for the white-owned New York Sun — “which was no small feat in the late 1800s” — and helped found a predecessor organization to the NAACP.

He also founded three national newspapers. One of them, the New York Age, “was the most widely read black newspaper of the era,” Serant writes. And he used the term “Afro-Americans” to denote black people at the time when ‘colored’ and ‘Negro’ were the standards.

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