Bugg Foundation honors NJEA member Shan Byrd

NJEA member and New Brunswick teacher Shan Byrd received the Ella Baker Award from the Bugg Foundation at its Amistad Gala on Feb. 20 for her dedication to educating and serving the community. NJEA was a sponsor of the gala, which featured Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver as its keynote speaker.  

Byrd was among 12 individuals honored. Each Bugg Foundation award is named for a leader in African American and civil rights history to retain the memory of individuals beyond Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. According to the Ella Baker Center for Civil Rights, Baker was activist who worked with some of the most noted civil rights leaders of the 20th century, but she encouraged grassroots movements over professional leadership. In 1960, she organized a meeting at Shaw University of the students who were engaged in lunch-counter protests. From that meeting the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was formed. Learn more about Baker at ellabakercenter.org

Byrd represents Middlesex County on the NJEA Minority Leadership and Recruitment Committee. She is an NJEA Professional Development Consultant and a graduate of the NJEA Bolivar L. Graham Practicing Apprentice Program. She is a leader in the NJEA REAL Movement. Recently, Byrd organized an Earth Day program at McKinley Community School in New Brunswick. 

The Bugg Foundation, among its many goals, is working to create community interest to support the implementation of the Amistad Curriculum in schools.  

Founder Jeanette Bugg lost her granddaughter to gun violence in Paterson. Inspired to have no more grandparents mourn grandchildren because of violence, she founded the Bugg Foundation to make the city’s parks havens of nonviolence. According to Sharrieff Bugg, Ms. Bugg’s son, five parks have been beautified by volunteers with the Bugg Foundation. The foundation reaches out to gang members to let them know that these parks are to be safe spaces for children to play. Gang members have even participated in park cleanup and plantings.  

One of the five parks, previously named Vreeland Triangle, has been renamed Amistad Park, partly through the work of the Bugg Foundation. 

The foundation is current raising money for projects that will advance the Amistad Curriculum. This includes a New Jersey Black History wall. This movable project can be set up in neighborhood parks. People can walk through it and learn about African American history in Paterson, in New Jersey, in the U.S., and about the Amistad. Another project, the Amistad Center will be a permanent space where visitors can learn about the Amistad and African American history.  

To learn more, email the Bugg Foundation at buggfoundation1@gmail.com.