Atlantic City Women’s March Adds to Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver’s Legacy


Sheila Oliver's family speaks to Atlantic City March attendees. Photo by Erika Heinrich.


ATLANTIC CITY — “We’re the same, you and me. We’re just sisters, sharing our laughter and sharing our tears, empowering each other after all the years,” keynote speaker Estina Baker said at the start of her speech for the Atlantic City Women’s March of 2024 at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall of Saturday.

“We are just sisters, celebrating; from girls, to women.”

The rally for the march was held at the end of the march at the historic hall, former home of the Miss American pageant in honor of the late Lt. Gov. Sheila Y. Oliver, who passed away in August of 2023.

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Oliver was the first Black woman to hold an elected position in New Jersey statewide elected office and had two terms. Born and raised in Newark, she was proud of being a “Jersey girl.”

Oliver fought in office for homeless prevention, women’s equality and signed multiple bills, one specifically to provide grades 6-8 with a personal finance instruction and another providing support for the Caregiver Task Force, that assists families with elderly and disabled family members in need of further support.

Photo at the Atlantic City Women’s March taken by Ericka Heinrich.

Oliver was the one of the founders of the Women’s March with the help of Atlantic City Councilman Kaleem Shabazz, who provided an Atlantic City connection and NAACP as the march’s first sponsor.

“Sheila and I were friends for close to 30 years,” said Shabazz, who marched with the attendees on Saturday. “I said that the city would be there and we would be a partner and we still are now.”

Efforts across community members created what the march is today.

Keynote speaker Estina Baker speaks to the crow at the Atlantic City Women’s March. Photo by Erika Heinrich.

The rally had a grand entrance with a stage and seats for all. Everyone was present for this moment. Women and men both shared a space to discuss the importance of Black women’s elevation, and progress for all women.

In attendance at the march was a collective of women, with matching red Greek letters representing the Atlantic City Alumni Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. One of the alumni members shared that their sorority’s history runs deep in support of women’s rights.

“[We were] founded in 1913, and one of the first things our Founders did was march for Women’s Suffrage in 1913. For us to participate in this is important.”

A grandmother, Charmaine Hall, came to advocate for her granddaughters.

“I want equality,” Hall said. “I have granddaughters and I want someday they can be whatever they want to be.”

The speakers had amazing things to say about motivating women to keep going and sharing the lessons that Oliver thought were important so all attendees could use her knowledge in their future efforts.

Baker was also a friend of Oliver. Baker herself is also active in being a community organizer. Baker is an activist, poet, and artist in the New Jersey/New York City area. She was named NYC Artist of the Year and had a residency at the National Civil Rights Museum.

Baker identified that some work for women’s rights, at times, goes unnoticed, but that supporters must keep working every day.

“There are some thankless nights, and some thankless days, but know that I see you,” she said. “Ms. Estina Baker sees you.”

Black women throughout the history of our local area have proved in many ways that they are committed to make the world a better place. Baker said Oliver overcame all types of adversities, including those who have questioned her knowledge.

Baker said Oliver succeeded in office by using her power to advocate for all types of people facing inequalities in New Jersey by also leading the Department of Community Affairs.

In the finishing remarks of the rally, Oliver’s family said to honor her legacy by loving all the people in our community a little more. The Oliver family created the Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver Civic Association to honor her legacy by providing support for women of color interested in public policy and community organizing.

The power and determination of Oliver shows nearly a lifetime career in community advocacy, even if some days she went unnoticed, her family said.

But that never stopped Oliver from using the help of acquaintances to create something bigger: The Women’s March of Atlantic City. That will now be just another amazing part of the legacy she is leaving in New Jersey.

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