White balloons floating, silver mylar letters gleaming, and a black tulle bow tied at a light post at the corner of two streets in the city of Passaic. That was the scene today as the corner of Broadway and Paulison Avenue was dedicated Zaida Polanco Way by resolution of Passaic City Council. Zaida Polanco’s life was woven into the fabric of life in that city. She’d been a city council member for 7 years, re-elected to a 2nd term in 2015, after a year serving the city on the Board of Education. She was also the school district’s human resources director. I did not know her, but I know many who did and are hit hard by her death, and especially the loss to North Jersey’s Dominican community. She was only 41.
Today, a crowd of people gathered to hear the resolution read by Mayor Hector Lora. The street sign is already ordered, he said; it’s extra-big. Stories about her were told: People who couldn’t afford their cell phone bills, whose bills were paid by her so they didn’t lose communication. Doors she opened for other people. A ’tireless advocate for those who did not have a voice.’ A “fighter.” Her huge smile, infectious laugh, how she’d greet people with ‘Hi, Baby.’
In this state, we stand on the shoulders of giants, elders whose good work we all benefit from, even if we don’t always know their name. Sometimes we lose those giants too damn soon. Zaida Polanco helped build something important in the lives of the people around her. You’ll know her name in Passaic at the corner of Broadway and Paulison; Passaic will make sure of it. May she rest in peace.
Below, cell-phone video taken by a friend, Evelyn T. Robinson. Shaky camera, but warm words. I don’t think she’ll mind me sharing it. Click to play; to unmute, use the volume slider bottom right of the video.