RADICAL: Orange presents Youth-Led Mayoral Debate

By Patricia Rogers

It is coming time for the Orange Mayoral Election.  Khemani Gibson leads community activist group, RADICAL: Orange as they host a Youth-Led Mayoral Debate at First Unitarian Universalist Church, Monday April 25th at 7:00pm.

P.R.: What is RADICAL: Orange?

Khemani Gibson: RADICAL: Orange is a group of young millennials from and living in Orange who after years of seeing the youth voice marginalized decided to create an organization that would not only provide youth with the avenue to voice their opinions concerning what goes on in the city but also devoted to providing social gatherings to foster a sense of community.

What inspired you to start RADICAL: Orange?

We decided to start it because there was just an overall lack of engagement from youth in the community.  The majority of the time, this apathy went on without any problem but any time something happened like someone we knew growing up getting shot and killed, you would hear many of the young people from the community complain how Orange was dangerous now, yet they'd never try to do something to combat the issues facing our community.  Also, we understood that the current power structure in the city benefited from the lack of youth engagement.  This allowed many to perpetuate negative stereotypes about the youth being criminals, lazy, etc. because they didn't talk [to] or see all the youth making positive contributions to society.  In other words, we wanted to provide youth with the chance to be change agents in the community and to challenge the stereotypes that exist about the youth in Orange.

"we wanted to provide youth with the chance to be change agents in the community and to challenge the stereotypes that exist about the youth in Orange."

— Khemani Gibson, RADICAL: Orange

Right now, who is RADICAL: Orange and what do they bring to the table?

So we have Courtney Sweat, the Community School Coordinator at Heywood Avenue School, who has been a longtime resident of Orange, who has seen and understands the issues the town faces; Patricia Rogers, the editor of masConsumption, who brings a devotion to the youth arts community and the Valley in Orange; Brittany Craig, a blogger and longtime resident in Orange that also exemplifies youth entrepreneurship.  Also,  Naeema Campbell, an active member in the community, entrepreneur, and artist.

Let’s talk about the upcoming Youth-led Mayoral Debate. Are all Mayoral candidates attending?

So the candidates are Mayor Dwayne Warren seeking re-election, Janice Morrell, and Councilman Kerry Coley.  We will discuss issues that are constantly raised at the various meetings around town but with a different youth-based perspective.  For instance, we will discuss public safety which includes crime, police, and fire safety.  Also, we plan on discussing education and the support for the public schools in the district.  We will also have a discussion about the lack of jobs available for youth to work in the city.

What do you hope happens after this debate, As far as youth leadership, representation and more in Orange?

I hope that city officials and other residents realize that the youth are more powerful and committed to making our voices heard in the city.  After all, it is we who will inherit any benefits or mistakes made by our current leaders. I hope the debate galvanizes youth to fight for the future that includes them, instead of letting officials and community members make decisions that further marginalize the youth population.  I also hope the debate is a learning moment for high school students about the democratic process.

Why are you so invested in the future of the city of Orange?

This is an interesting question!  I was raised in Orange, since my parents migrated with my brother and myself from Jamaica.  For a majority of my life, Orange was my entire world, as my school, church, and home were all within the city's borders.  Somehow over the years, I developed a negative view of Orange, viewing it as a "ghetto" or the urban equivalent of a backwater, without much for the youth to do.  This all changed when I did the Murmur project in high school and learned about Orange's real history. As a result, I viewed the city in a different light.  Instead of seeing it as an urban purgatory that I couldn't wait to leave, I came to see the city and its residents as diamonds in the rough.  I'm committed to Orange because I believe that we can truly make Orange into a city that serves ALL its residents.  I believe Orange can be an exporter of home-grown creativity and innovation, bringing about our own Renaissance.  I believe Orange has the potential to forge its own future which would add to the beautifully complex history of these 2.2 sq. miles.

"I believe Orange can be an exporter of home-grown creativity and innovation, bringing about our own Renaissance." 

— Khemani Gibson, RADICAL: Orange

What more can we expect from RADICAL: Orange?

RADICAL: Orange is also trying to organize social events such as meet-ups at local restaurants etc..  We would also like to hold sessions, where we invite entrepreneurial coaches in that could help youth that have business ideas get started.  Lastly, we are looking for other young people to get involved and bring new ideas to the table so that we can better serve the entire community.


The Youth-Led Mayoral Debate takes place in the HUUB room at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Orange, 35 Cleveland Street Orange, New Jersey 07050.  You can RSVP on the Facebook event page here: www.facebook.com/radicalorangenj

About the Writer

Patricia Rogers, #ValleyGirlNJ, lives in New Jersey's Valley Arts District.  The native New Yorker works as a writer, blogger and community activist. Starting Masconsumption Media in 2012, she has been passionate about capturing the stories of the vibrant up and coming Valley Arts District neighborhood through her blog, zine, events and more.  She blogs for Jersey Indie, Luna Stage, and Hat City Kitchen and offers many creative media services.  Visit her blog www.masconsumption.com and keep up with your favorite Valley Girl on social media at @valleygirl_nj (Twitter / Instagram).