In profound sadness and deep reverence, we gather to remember and celebrate the life of our beloved Lieutenant Governor Sheila Y. Oliver, a mentor, a friend, and an extraordinary trailblazer. Her legacy is not confined to history books but lives on in the hearts of those she touched as she transcends time. LG Oliver’s impact on my life and countless others is immeasurable, and her legacy will forever be etched in our hearts.

LG Sheila Y. Oliver’s groundbreaking achievements as the first African American and first woman Speaker of the State General Assembly, and the first female Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey inspire us all. As a Black woman, she shattered glass ceilings, opening doors for women to enter politics and serve our communities. As our queen, she paved the way for us to make meaningful contributions to our communities and the world at large. Because of her trailblazing journey, I am inspired to be a part of this noble endeavor, knowing that barriers can be broken and representation matters.

LG Oliver was more than a mentor; she was a modern-day embodiment of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and yes, the indomitable Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm—whose legacy she revered and drew inspiration from. Her commitment to uplifting others and fighting for justice was a true reflection of her character.

LG Oliver was strength, especially in the face of adversity and the male-dominated realm of politics. Her teachings ingrained in me the importance of leading with unwavering morals and principles, dressing every decision with honesty, truth, dignity, and self-assurance. Her example inspires me to lead with integrity and strive for excellence in all aspects of life.

LG Oliver’s belief in my potential was a turning point in my life. She handpicked me and generously invested her time in guiding me, dropping pearls of wisdom, lessons, and captivating stories along the way. Her mentorship was a beacon of light that illuminated my path, empowering me to believe in myself and pursue a future in public service. Under her guidance, I learned the true meaning of strength and fearlessness. Through her unwavering support, she not only opened doors but also paved the way for a new generation of leaders to emerge.

Beyond her political brilliance, LG Oliver’s down-to-earth and humorous nature endeared her to everyone she encountered. I cherish the memories of sitting next to her, laughing and enjoying Beyoncé’s 2018 ‘On the Run’ concert—a shared passion that showcased her admiration for hardworking women excelling in their respective fields.

On a personal note, she supported and encouraged me to grow my family and do what I love outside of work regardless of the demands of my career. She loved children, was a true believer in women’s rights, and supported career women in all aspects including birthing while in politics while simultaneously holding on to our positions and yielding results. I am so grateful for her to have met my family and have held each of my babies.

In 2022, in addition to in private, I made sure to publicly express my gratitude and admiration for LG Oliver while she was still with us. Honoring her with the Lebby C. Jones Award at an event I hosted allowed me to verbally extend my heartfelt appreciation for everything she had done, not only for me but also for the betterment of our entire community. I am glad to have given her flowers while she was alive and could smell them.

As we bid farewell to our queen, let us celebrate her life by embracing the principles she stood for and the values she championed. May we continue her legacy by striving for excellence, supporting one another, and working tirelessly to create a better and more inclusive world. Let us carry forward her spirit of resilience, determination, and unwavering dedication to making the world a better place.

We are all better because of her presence in our lives as her influence will continue to shape the lives of future generations.

Rest in power, dear LG. Thank you for your boundless love, support, and dedication to a brighter and more inclusive future. Your memory will forever be a guiding light, urging us to press onward and continue the work you championed.

Britnee Timberlake is the Assemblywoman from the 34th District.

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