By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
PENNS GROVE — Penns Grove councilwoman Charlyn Frazier-Martin knows hard times and how to fight against insurmountable odds — and those lessons have nothing to do with her 2020 election.
As a young woman, Martin was stricken with the rare debilitating disease Guillain Barre Syndrome in 1982, which left her temporarily paralyzed. Guillain Barre is a disorder that leaves your body’s immune system attacking your own nerves.
Today, Martin tells the story as an example of why she appreciates every breath of life, why she feels like its important to fight for the most vulnerable in the community and to make her home of Penns Grove the best she can make it while she can.
“My illness began with a sore throat, then weakness and tingling in my hands and feet,” Martin recently told Front Runner New Jersey. “Ultimately, I had become paralyzed. Because my father had been in the military, I was admitted into Walson Army Hospital in Fort Dix, N.J. After a few days I was flown to Walter Reed Military Hospital in Bethesda, Md. where I remained for approximately a month.
Since then, Martin has struggled with her gross and fine motor skills, taking years for her to gain most of them back.
“I credit my recovery in my faith in God and the support of my family,” Martin said. “When necessary, I share my story because I want to convey messages of hope. Letting people know to not get discouraged or give up because of the obstacles in their lives; but to continue to press forward reaching for their goals.”
Martin was elected to Penns Grove council last year with running mate Jonathan Carter. They won a contentious Democratic primary and November general election, where Martin was the top vote-getter in each race.
“My husband and I have spent many years working within the community,” Martin said. “We both have a heart for helping those who need it. I ran for council because I became disheartened by the failing condition of my town. So, I decided to be the change I wanted to see in Penns Grove.”
That heart for helping others in need is part of her work life as well. Martin currently works for the Penns Grove Carneys Point Board of Education as a school counselor/district harassment intimidation and bullying coordinator (HIB)/district student assistance coordinator (SAC).
Before working with the school district, Martin was employed at Salem County Women’s Services as a domestic violence and sexual assault counselor as well as the liaison to the Salem County Division of Child Protection and Permanency.
Safe Haven For Children
“While there, I served as the agency’s cultural competency representative and on the Board of Trustees for the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault,” Martin said. “Although working with individuals affected by domestic violence and sexual assault were pretty rewarding, my desire to work with children increased.
“After 11 years with Salem County Women’s Services, a counseling position at the school became available. Working as a school counselor, HIB and the SAC coordinator gives me opportunities to advocate and provide a safe haven for children,” Martin said.
Martin said one of the things she found surprising in her run for council was actually convincing people of how important their vote really was. She said she was taken aback by the negative comments made during the campaign, but was determined to remain uplifting.
“Some of the residents felt that their voices were never heard in the past and that things couldn’t change,” Martin said, who said she was grieving the death off her father, the late Rev. Dr. Charles Frazier, at the time as well. “In addition, I had to find a way to remain focused and not be distracted by the negative social media comments, tricks from my opponent and others, during the primary election.
“My running mate and I decided from the onset that we would not run a negative campaign. Also, I was grieving the death of my father who had passed away during that time, last year. I overcame these challenges with much prayer, meditation, and my support system,” she said.
Making Penns Grove Better
Martin said she has enjoyed the work in making Penns Grove a better community to live so far on council.
“I feel it’s imperative for African Americans to get involved in government,” Martin said. “The policies and laws that benefit, protect, and are fair to African Americans will only be created if we take a seat at the table. Even if my African American brothers and sisters are not interested in running for public office, it is equally important to get involved with the affairs of our towns and attend local city or town meetings.”
As someone now chosen to represent Penns Grove, Martin said she is aware of her role of being a positive role model for young people around her.
“I am very serious about my role in the community and being a role model to some,” Martin said. “I realize that people tend to watch the actions of public figures. So, it’s important to me to conduct myself in a positive, caring manner in order to inspire others to live meaningful lives.”
She said her parents continue to be a source of constant inspiration for her.
“My parents have always been my inspiration,” Martin said. “As a child they taught me to be independent, to pursue my dreams, and to persevere through the rough times. My mom instilled in me to always hold my head up and smile even when you feel you are at your lowest in life.”
The Rest of the Story
There were other topics Martin touched on in her interview with Front Runner New Jersey.
FRNJ: Tell me about your family and where you are from. Just whatever you’d like to share.
Charlyn Frazier-Martin: I was born in Lompoc, Calif. to the late Rev. Dr. Charles and Lavender Frazier. My father grew up in Penns Grove and my mother is a native of the island of Bermuda. I have five siblings and I am the fifth of six children. I lived in Kanto Mura, Japan for four years before moving to New Jersey. My father was in the Air Force and retired from there as well. I am married to Gregory S. Martin and have helped to raise three children: Myles, Justise, and Justin. In addition to raising three children, my husband and I are pleased to have a bonus son, Aaron Hayward, and a dog named Fuji. I attended the Penns Grove Carneys Point School District. I have a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in education with a New Jersey certification in school counseling.
FRNJ: What other organizations are you involved with? Any one of them you are particularly close to? Why?
Charlyn Frazier-Martin: Currently, I am involved with the Penns Grove Carneys Point Municipal Alliance for the Prevention of Substance Abuse (MAPSA) and Club Oasis Youth Program. I am particularly close to Club Oasis because I am the founder and it’s a great program. Club Oasis is a youth program designed to help young people become productive citizens of the community. Although we are not fully up and running, we have provided summer camp, great trips and activities for children.
FRNJ: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Charlyn Martin: I honestly don’t know what the future holds for me. I can only hope to feel a sense of pride for the accomplishments that this administration has made.
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