By Ibrahim Small

EAST ORANGE, N.J. – Each year, the Governor applauds the exemplary service to the community at large for their outstanding effort. This year, one of our industrious Muslim brothers, Jimmy Small, was a recipient of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Champion for Social Justice.

Bro. Jimmy, as he is affectionately called by the Muslim community, has been doing community work for over 45 years. 

Br. Jimmy Small

When he served in the Navy, our brother was the Affirmative Action officer at several commands, he was stationed. While stationed in Iceland in the early 1970s, he used diplomacy to get Mutual Black Network News on the radio, as well as the Johnson Publications at the American base. 

Those were very important features for the black community members, men, and women stationed there at that time for the service, which was missing at the time.

As a student at Rutgers University, Jimmy joined the clarion call to get something named honoring Paul Robeson, who is considered the most prominent person to attend that prestigious university. The gesture worked and the student center will forever be named after this prestigious African American activist and renowned singer and actor.

After graduating from Rutgers with BA and MA degrees, Bro. Jimmy got involved with politics. He was the first Muslim to serve as an elected official in his hometown of East Orange, N.J. He has served in many key roles as a School Board member, Library Board Trustee, and City Council. 

In each of those roles, he served as the President. His motivation in serving the people was “to get what their taxpayer dollars paid for” – a critical leadership role in his neighborhood block-by-block.

Community service for this uniquely focused brother was provided in his roles as ScoutMaster, Block Association President, and volunteer for community access television for his local cable company to make presentations of critical information to the local community. He was a PTA president when his children attended school.

This brother believes in working in a unified way with service as the purpose gets the most done. As a supporter of the late leader Imam W. Deen Mohammed Muhammad, “service leadership” was the Imam’s concept on how to lead, and Bro. Jimmy took his call very seriously.

He currently serves as President of the Muslim League of Voters of New Jersey (MLV-NJ). From this position, he has led the organization to work with other Muslim groups to fulfill the needs of Muslims and people in general.

Bro. Jimmy helps to feed the needy with the help of the American Muslims for Hunger Relief. In conjunction with MLV-NJ, these groups work hand-in-hand with Masjid Muhammad of Newark as a monthly event.

The American Muslims for Democracy has worked with Bro. Jimmy and the MLV to increase voter registration. Three years ago, the two organizations traveled the state of New Jersey, focusing on urging citizens to complete the U.S. census. The outcome of their efforts was New Jersey’s population increased by 400,000.

Bro. Jimmy was up front and center to help form the New Jersey Muslims Voices for Progress. Along with MLV, the two organizations, and with the help of others, such as CAIR, PACC, and New Africa, voter turnout increased in New Jersey. 

This led to an explosion of Muslims being elected or appointed to various positions in both political parties. This started out as a collaboration with five organizations to increase to over 150 groups working together with Muslims, regardless of their ethnicity or other diverse backgrounds.

Recently, Bro. Jimmy has represented the Muslim community in Interfaith efforts, one of his favorites being the Newark Interfaith Council. He is one of the usual prayer warriors leading the Islamic prayers at events.

Our brother is often sought out by people needing advice as to “how to do things” – especially in the realm of politics. And he gladly assists wherever possible. He is active in the national organization – the Muslim American Veterans Association (MAVA) and is a proud father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.  

He is President of the East Orange, New Jersey, Library Board.

To sum it all up, Bro. Jimmy Small is a helpmate to all who seek to do something positive in the community throughout the state of New Jersey.  So it was well deserved when the Hon. Phil Murphy, Governor of New Jersey, took notice of these efforts presenting him with the “Governor’s Volunteer Award of 2023.”

Writer and Br. Jimmy’s son, Ibrahim Small

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