On Saturday, April 22, 2023, Blue Butterfly Arts & Media in collaboration with Wynona’s House (an Essex County Child Advocacy Center) and The Newark Public Library will host a community forum, 1:00-4:00 PM in the James Brown African American Room of the library, 5 Washington Street, Newark, NJ. The community forum is an opportunity for friends, colleagues, politicians, social service providers and the general public to discuss and learn about the late Senator Wynona M. Lipman (1923-1999), New Jersey’s first African-American woman Senator. Among confirmed panelists are Sen. Nia H. Gill, Sen. Loretta Weinberg, Wynona’s House Board President Gale Britton, and former Newark Mayor Sharpe James who succeeded Sen. Lipman in 1999. Newark Municipal Council President LaMonica McIver will serve as moderator.

Sen. Lipman served 27 years in the State Senate and worked tirelessly to improve the health and well-being of women, children, and underserved populations throughout the State of New Jersey particularly in her 29th district. She fought for equitable compensation for women, women and family empowerment, and helped to enact the Domestic Violence Act of 1981 and Fair Housing Act of 1985. She fought against employment discrimination, assault, gender inequality, and antiquated marriage laws.

“I, too, am one of those persons who directly benefited from her wisdom and guidance and her support going back to when I was in my 20’s… I talk about Wynona often,” says Lt. Gov. Sheila Y. Oliver. “I share with people the work she has done in the Legislation…but I also remind people when she became our first Black State Senator, she was not given a desk on the Senate floor of the Senate Chamber and she wasn’t provided with a bathroom.” Regarding Lipman’s performance as Senator of the 29th District, Oliver says, “She was masterful in getting legislation navigated through what was sometimes a hostile democratic caucus environment.”

The Wynona Lipman Project
The event is part of The Wynona Lipman Project, a three-part Centennial Celebration of Sen. Lipman who would have turned 100 in November 2023. The Wynona Lipman Project encompasses a documentary by award-winning filmmaker Celeste A. Bateman currently in the works; the community forum and an exhibit and closing program in November.

The documentary, tentatively titled Wynona Lipman: New Jersey’s First African-American Woman Senator, is a production of Blue Butterfly Arts & Media (A New Jersey Nonprofit Corporation). The mission of Blue Butterfly Arts & Media, founded by Ms. Bateman, is to create, present, advocate for and promote visual, performing, media arts, and history programs and to provide creative opportunities for artists working in these genres. Ms. Bateman is a longtime arts advocate, licensed booking agent, and former arts administrator. Her first documentary Gone Too Soon: The Life, Legacy and Loss of Newark’s Cultural Icons has received local and international recognition.

According to Dominic Prophete, CEO of Wynona’s House Child Advocacy Center, “The Wynona Lipman Project will ensure that present and future generations know how meaningful and transformative Sen. Lipman’s life and legacy are to our work in the child welfare and community service spaces and how youth will see much of themselves in her.”

The Wynona’s House mission is to promote justice, hope, and healing for child victims of abuse and neglect throughout Essex County by coordinating the investigation, prosecution, treatment, prevention, and supportive services utilizing the “child-centered” multidisciplinary team approach. Their vision is to create a community where children are safe, families are strong, and victims become children again. Prophete continues, “Sen. Lipman left us a blueprint on how to listen to one another, support our community, and ‘speak the truth’ to those who make decisions that impact our daily lives.”

The Newark Public Library, home of the Philip Roth Personal Library, is located at 5 Washington Street in downtown Newark, NJ, with six branches throughout the city. It is New Jersey’s most comprehensive public library, providing equal and free access to vast educational, cultural, literary, historical, and digital resources. Major departments include the Reference Center, Special Collections, the Charles F. Cummings New Jersey Information Center, the New Jersey Hispanic Research and Information Center, the James Brown African American Room, the LGBTQ Resource Center and Made@NPL, a makerspace for Newark’s artisan micro-entrepreneurs.

“We are honored to host this important community event in The James Brown African American Room at the Newark Public Library,” said Dale E. Colston, Interim Assistant Director of Special Collections. “NPL has a strong link to this remarkable woman — the library’s New Jersey Information and Research Center is home to the Wynona M. Lipman Papers. We look forward to learning even more about her accomplishments and legacy during this forum.”

Funding: Made possible by funds from the Essex County Division of Arts, Cultural and Historic Affairs, a partner of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Additional support provided by the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Blue Butterfly Arts & Media and individual donors.

Wynona’s House Child Advocacy Center
LisaMarie Gaeta



  • Philanthropy & Non-profit