LITTLE SILVER, NJ - On Sunday, October 1, the T. Thomas Fortune Committee held their fifth annual T. Thomas Fortune Birthday Bash Celebration; “Welcome Home Fortune,” a fundraiser to help preserve and renovate this historical landmark in the Red Bank community. Red Bank Regional (RBR) senior Suubi Mondesir, was honored for her extensive contributions toward the T. Thomas Fortune Foundation. Also honored at the event was local artist Mike Quon who lent his talent toward the foundation publications and Rev. Gilbert Caldwell, a civil rights activist all his adult life, who marched with Dr. King from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.
Thomas Fortune was born a slave in 19th century America and rose to become an accomplished orator, civil rights leader, journalist, writer, editor and publisher. He settled in Red Bank in 1901. His home was declared a national landmark in 1976. Over the past few years, Gilda Rogers of Red Bank, a community activist, author and educator, has led an effort to renovate the house into a community cultural center and museum.
Gilda Rogers is a mentor to Suubi who aspires to become a journalist. During the summer of 2016, Suubi attended a one-week residential Journalism intensive program at Rutgers University to hone her skills in journalism and media. For the past year, she has employed that knowledge as the T. Thomas Fortune Foundation publicist, writing press releases, creating a T. Thomas Fortune Foundation blog, and managing all social media platforms including Instagram and Twitter. She also attends meetings and works at planned events.
Gilda Rogers comments on her young protégée, “Ms. Suubi Mondesir is a fine example of what it means for a young person to come of age and recognize they have a voice and the power to make a difference in society. The T. Thomas Fortune Foundation is proud to have such a conscientious student on board with us."
Suubi, a Creative Writing major in RBR’s Visual & Performing Arts Academy, is also a high honor roll student at RBR, a Student to Student Peer Leadership Officer and Youth Ministry President of the Pilgrim Baptist Church. Additionally, Suubi is a member of the National Honor Society, National Italian Honor Society, and National Honor Society of High School Scholars, as well as being a Metro Scholar.
In addition, to the T. Thomas Fortune Foundation Award, Suubi received a resolution from the New Jersey General Assembly for outstanding academic achievement and community service. She was a finalist candidate in the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof Poetry Contest on race, and received numerous National Scholastic awards for her writing. She garnered mayoral recognition from the YMCA Leadership Program and was nominated to attend the National Youth Leadership Forum for digital media, film and journalism.
Suubi became enamored with the T. Thomas Fortune project when she attended the zoning board meeting which gave authorization to save the house from demolition and preserve it.
She states, “I learned the importance of this home in regards to our history and why it is imperative to develop the national landmark into a culture center for generations to come.”