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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Today’s Star-Ledger reports that a fundraising organization at Red Bank Catholic has lost direct contact with a small school in the vast Kenyan slum of Kibera amid the internecine carnage that has gripped Nairobi for the past six weeks.

Through an Associated Press reporter, members of the Maryknoll Society at RBC have learned that the crude nursery school they’ve been supporting for the past four years is still intact. But the last email received from lay missionary Vikki Smith “was a lengthy and horrifying description of the riots and their casualties — stories of mass graves, the rape of women and children and the burning of families in their homes,” the Ledger’s Maryann Spoto reports.

More from the article:

With no word from the missionaries in a week, members of Red Bank Catholic’s Maryknoll Club were getting a stark lesson in global unrest, wondering if their sister school had been lost to the violence.

“They’re not like nameless kids,” said senior Kathryn Martin, 18, of Eatontown. “We know them. We have to help them out.”

As of yesterday, the Red Bank students had no idea whether the nursery school in Africa’s second-largest slum still stood or the fate of the children, aged 3 to 5. The school is affiliated with Christ the King Parish in Nairobi.

“Prior to this, the e-mails and photos were filled with hope,” said Mary Logan, adviser to the Maryknoll Club. “Now what I’m getting is all that hope is in jeopardy. It’s our job to keep that hope alive.”

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Calvary Baptist Church on Bridge Avenue last night hosted a music-filled service last night to commemorate the ministry of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. whose birthdate, Jan. 15, is celebrated next week.

Sponsored by the Greater Red Bank Ministers Association, the event featured a commemorative message by Rev. Cleophus J. LaRue (above right) of the Princeton Theological Seminary, who spoke of human history versus “salvation history.”

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Federal immigration-law enforcers nearly doubled the number of arrests of illegal aliens in New Jersey during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, today’s Star-Ledger reports.


A total of 2,079 illegal aliens were taken into custody by four teams of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials assigned to the state, the Ledger reports.

Those swept up were wanted on warrants or deportation orders, or because they happened to be in places that the feds were raiding, the Ledger reports.

In fiscal 2006, 1,094 people were arrested in the state, the Ledger says. Of the 2,079 arrested last year, officials reported that 270 had criminal histories and 1,220 have already been deported.

From the article:

The increase reflected a nationwide trend that has seen deportations skyrocket. Nationwide, 30,408 people were arrested in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, up from 15,462 the previous year.

It is the first time in the controversial five-year effort to cut down on the number of fugitive aliens living in the country that the number has decreased, ICE officials said.

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Forget Lindsay Lohan and fence-plowing and occasionally topless amateur hour contestants. There is hope for the next generation.

With the help of a social studies teacher, two Rumson-Fair Haven High School seniors, Nikki Schneider and Kellie Donovan, organized Wednesday night’s “Night for Darfur” with the aim of informing the community about “another holocaust” underway in the Darfur region of the Sudan.

“What’s going on affects us all,” said Schneider. “We made a promise after the Holocaust. It’s unacceptable.”

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