Last month, the Capital City Area Black Caucus honored 183 black women in Mercer county for their dedication to making a positive impact on their community. Lawrence High School’s own social studies teacher, Jametta Clarke, was one of them.
Clarke, originally from Alabama, moved to New Jersey almost eight years ago. She credits her New Jersey family and friends, her job with Lawrence High School and her worship experience at Union Baptist Church in Trenton as the reasons she remained in New Jersey.
Clarke describes herself as a jack of many trades. “I teach high school social studies by day and children’s Bible study by Wednesday night, choir direct at school and church, cater, event plan and much more,” she said.
For Clarke, “teaching is at the heart” of everything she does.
She has served as a social studies teacher for about 14 years. Clarke worked as a teacher in Alabama for seven years, and as a teacher in New Jersey for seven years. Even after a student has left her class, Clarke will always think her former students as her children. “Once my student, always my child.”
“Whether I’m teaching history, law, economics, a new song to my Gospel Choir children or working with a team of dedicated Black History Celebration student planning committee members, I’m constantly inspired by them. They motivate me daily to give them the best me that I have to give. On some of my worst days, their spirits and zeal for knowledge and enthusiasm for learning have lifted me,” she said.
Dr. Patricia Kempton, another award recipient and a 2014 Lawrence High School Black History Trailblazer, observed how Clarke interacted with her students and nominated her to be one of the Capital City Area Black Caucus Inaugural Women’s History Month program.
The Capital City Area Black Caucus is an organization that has brought together “dedicated local officials, business men and women, community members and activists,” said Clarke. According to Freeholder Samuel Frisby Sr., the CCABC was founded as a way to “give access and a voice to” leaders in the community. Mercer County residents can get direct access to politicians and Capital City representatives monthly, instead of just around election season.
The CCABC’s first meeting was in October of last year, and it was “to begin to discuss issues that impact the black community.
“I’ve heard from so many people that, ‘hey, we don’t hear from politicians until it’s election time,” said Frisby, “so we said, you know what, we’re going to bring the elected officials in and we’ll have them speak to you.”
The CCABC then decided to share that these meetings would continue at the same time each month, giving Capital City Area residents a chance to discuss issues, with leaders in the community, that affect them.
“You can come out and we’ll talk about topics that you want to talk about,” Frisby said. “It really was an organic development that started from the community.”
According to Clarke, this is “an influential and much needed organization of great minds and community leaders in the Capital City area.” On a monthly basis, the caucus assembles dedicated local officials, business men and women, community members and activists at the Capital City YMCA on Pennington Avenue to discuss various topics and opportunities for city and county growth and collaboration.
The CCABC hosts its “Trenton Future Series” monthly. This series is a meeting where representatives can gather every second Saturday of the month and discuss issues and hot topics impacting African Americans in the Capital City Area. These meetings, which place at the Capital City YMCA, aim to encourage conversation about the community and what can be done to make improvements.
According to Clarke, “among the many topics discussed [by the CCABC] are education, public safety, small business opportunities, available youth and senior programs and race relations. In addition, the caucus frequently pauses to bestow honor among various members in the area.
At the meeting on March 9, the discussion topic was on city-county collaboration. Frisby shared that the discussion focused on “what the county and the city already collaborating on, and where we can see them collaborating on other things.”
For the upcoming May meeting, the topic of discussion will be on mental health for mental health awareness month, according to Frisby, and that a mental health awareness fair is in the works, in collaboration with another organization.
Frisby knew of Clarke prior to her being recognized by the CCABC, as they attend the same church. He and his wife have been a members of the Union Baptist Church for the past year, and knew Clarke from her work with the gospel choir. “Knowing Jametta, [she’s] a very dedicated and capable choir director,” said Frisby.
According to Frisby, a 12-person committee looked into black women in Mercer County that deserved to be recognized for their work, and choose Clarke to be one of the recipients.
By honoring black women in Mercer County, the CCABC aims to “thank” these women for all they do and to recognize their efforts. When Clarke learned that she was being honored by the CCABC, she was “humbled” and is “motivated to do more.”
Frisby, said the following to the Trentonian: “This recognition of 150 black women in Mercer County is long overdue and is an unbelievable gesture and acknowledgement of these women for their contributions and their effort on behalf of all of us in the county.”
He continued to say that, “this is an important and major recognition of black women’s contributions to the Capital City Area.”
“To be honored in the same room as area greats, such as Congresswoman Bonnie Watson-Coleman, Senator Shirley Turner, Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, and so many more beautiful, strong and intelligent black women, rendered me speechless,” said Clarke.
Clarke credits her ability as a educator and as an active community member to her “solid spiritual and family foundation.”
“I thank God for life, opportunity and second chances. I’m eternally grateful to my parents, Rev. James Clarke, Jr. and the late Etta Alexander Clarke for their love, support, guidance and motivation to always be true to God, my roots and to strive daily to be a better person than the day before.”
Clarke is making her impact on her the children she works with, and strives to be a pillar of support and encouragement for any child. “For children who may not have that type of support, I seek to bring a daily dose of stability, love, encouragement and inspiration to their lives. Then and only then, will I be able to receive one of my greatest rewards, sight of their success. It’s in their success that I’ll find life’s greatest reward, the knowledge that I’ve helped someone along the way and thus my living is not in vain.”