At the onset of the Civil Rights Movement in the early 1950’s, our country was graced with the birth of Mr. Gerald Williams on Christmas Eve, in 1950. At that time he was the only child of his parents, whom were not unfamiliar with hard work, as they were children of share croppers at the turn of the century in South Carolina, before migrating to New Jersey. Educated in the Newark Public School System, Gerald later would further his education at Rutgers the State University of New Jersey, as a Pre-Med student. However, family obligations would lead him to leave college and serve in the Armed Forces, for eight years.
Upon returning to Newark, this trailblazer would serve as the first Black Yard Superintendent in Management, for Maher Terminals, a major shipping/transportation company in Port Newark. At that time work for African American at the Port was rare, to say the least. After his time at Port Newark, Mr. Williams would hold several positions in the Department of Sanitation, Security companies and a host of other odd-jobs.
Sadly, after the lost of several family members, Mr. Williams became depressed and could not maintain employment. Forced to go on public assistance, Mr. Williams became homeless. During this austere time, he was forced to sleep at Newark’s Penn Station and he rode the path train all night, until he found the Urban League of Essex County’s Mature Worker Program.
After being enrolled into the program and placed at East Orange One-Stop, Mr. Williams continued to fight the overlapping issues associated with poverty, specifically homelessness. However, he did not miss a single day of training, an often times went to his host agency early to bathe. After a candid and honest discussion with the program Director about his homelessness, Mr. Williams was referred to a partner agency for housing assistance and has since secured permanent housing.
Continuing to persevere, Mr. Williams, along with the MWP staff looked for employment opportunities at his host agency and other organizations. He mastered the assisignments at his host agency and exemplified great strides in his training. His efforts did not go unnoticed. On March 18, 2011, Mr. Williams was offered the position of Employment Resource Liaison with New Jersey Department of Labor.
When asked how he felt about the hire, Mr. Williams simply stated; “Because of the Urban League, I can wake up and take a deep breath and know which way I am going. I can smile again.”