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Grammy-winning trumpeter who played with Miles Davis and Ornette Coleman dies in New Jersey hospital after being admitted last week

Wallace Roney, a Grammy-winning jazz trumpeter celebrated for his interpretations of Miles Davis, has died aged 59 after contracting Covid-19.

He died in hospital in Paterson, New Jersey, where he had been admitted last week, according to his fiancee, Dawn Felice Jones.

Roney, born in 1960, trained at Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Howard University and Berklee College of Music. After playing clubs in New York, he was invited into the storied hard bop band led by Art Blakey, the Jazz Messengers. He was then hired by Tony Williams, the drummer who had played alongside Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter in Miles Daviss second great quintet, and recorded a number of albums with him during the 1980s. Roney also recorded 22 albums as leader in a post-bop or fusion style, beginning with 1987s Verses.

Aged 23, he met his hero Miles Davis, after playing in an ensemble for a retrospective concert as Davis collected an honorary degree. Davis became his mentor, and Roneys style would be frequently compared to Daviss. I never get tired of the comparisons to Miles I get tired of the critics trying to make it into a negative, he said last year. Because to me, its no comparison. Miles Davis is the greatest ever. What Im trying to do is continue and push forward from the lessons I learned from him and try to play this music.

In 1991, he was hired to play in rehearsals for orchestral reworkings of Daviss albums Sketches of Spain and Porgy and Bess, to be performed at that years Montreux jazz festival. He ended up being invited by Davis to perform alongside him in the concerts themselves. Davis died later that year Roney would win a Grammy in 1994 for the album A Tribute to Miles, playing Daviss parts alongside the remaining members of the quintet.

Over the years, he played alongside Ornette Coleman, Chick Corea, Elvin Jones, Pharoah Sanders and other jazz luminaries. In 2014, he premiered music composed by saxophonist Shorter during his time with Miles Daviss quintet.

He is survived by two children from his marriage to late pianist Geri Allen, Barbara and Wallace Jr.

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Asbury Park may be more closely associated with the star but a new exhibition in Freehold the town where the Boss grew up tells an earlier tale, along with 250 years of American history

Darkness on the Edge of Town That Bruce Springsteen song always comes to mind when, on visits to my mother, I drive through Freehold, the town I grew up in, and hit the intersection of East Main Street and Jackson Terrace. This is actually the meeting point of two Freeholds: Freehold Township, once farmland and now McMansions and other unchecked suburban horrors; and Freehold Borough, the old colonial town, dating from the 1600s. Long before that, the area was steeped in the traditions of the displaced Leni Lenape people.

The junction of Jackson and Main still feels like where farmland meets town, a stretch of dark country road, marked by a lonely gas station and a dilapidated barn before the asphalt corridor redefines itself with late-Victorian and early-20th-century buildings often draped in red, white and blue bunting. One Queen Anne-style house is so striking it was used as the family home in 1990s TV show Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

Bruce Springsteens childhood home on Institute Street in Freehold. Photograph: James Leynse/Getty Images

Several blocks away is Freehold High School, a 1920s colonial revival structure mimicking Philadelphias Independence Hall. Thats where Springsteen went to school. I did too, though many years later. When I was young, a popular story told of Springsteen playing guitar in the schools courtyard while teachers rained insults, insisting hed never make anything of himself. Springsteen may be most closely associated with nearby Asbury Park, where he first sang to acclaim, but Freehold is the place the Boss called his hometown.

How the musicians fame stretched from this little town about an hour from Manhattan to the rest of the world is the theme of a new exhibition at Monmouth County Historical Association (70 Court Street) entitled Springsteen: His Hometown.

Scrapbook made by Bruce Springsteens mother, Adele.

More than 150 objects are on display at the exhibition, which runs until the end of September 2020. Some are the MCHAs own, others come from the Springsteen Archives of Monmouth University in Long Branch (his town of birth), with more from private collectors and the Boss himself. There are unreturned keys from hotels Springsteen stayed at early in his career, and a letter to his landlady where he admits to practising his autograph. Clothes, including boots and a leather bomber from the 1980s, sit alongsde a Bruce Springsteen board game created and marketed in Europe by a French fan. Parked in the museums garden is an antique truck the musician and his manager used to travel from gig to gig and to Woodstock.

The exhibitions genealogical section, tracing the life of Joost Springsteen, the Bosss earliest New Amsterdam ancestor, offers ways to explore beyond the towns famous son.

In the museums permanent exhibition, the 1778 Battle of Monmouth is commemorated by two valuable objects: a Dennis Carter painting of revolutionary folk heroine Molly Pitcher with George Washington; and another of the battle itself by Emanuel Leutze, better known for his Washington Crossing the Delaware (in New Yorks Met).

Springsteens 1967 school yearbook

Borough historian Kevin Coyne, who is also a Columbia University journalism professor and features in a mini-documentary about the town, said: A little piece of everything that has happened in America has happened here: colonial settlers, the revolution, the civil war, agricultural prosperity, the rise and fall of manufacturing, racial tensions, creeping suburbanisation. It all played out here, and Springsteen and his ancestors have been part of every stage.

So while Springsteen is Freeholds main lure, it holds centuries of American lore, too. The exhibition blends recent musical history with revolutionary heritage of this town, which was once called Monmouth Courthouse, an important early stagecoach link between New York and Philadelphia.

Just across the street from the MCHA, the Battle of Monmouth monument has a dramatic bronze of Molly Pitcher, hair fiercely windswept as she loads a cannon. The 1950s Monmouth Courthouse, with its mix of period enamelled turquoise panels and classical columns, was the site of another battle with international implications: the 1980s Baby M court case, one of the earliest to rule on surrogate parenting. (Mary Beth Whitehead had contracted with a family called the Sterns to carry a child for them, but changed her mind after giving birth. The court ruled surrogacy contracts invalid, but the Sterns won a protracted custody battle.)

Old artillery at Monmouth Battlefield Park

Theres more about the revolution at Monmouth Battlefield state park, in neighbouring Manalapan Township, behind the Freehold Raceway Mall. The preserved land here is all that is left undeveloped from the massive battle nearly 250 years ago, at which the British had to abandon hope of a military victory. The bucolic setting is now better-known for summer weddings and autumn apple picking.

The shopping mall takes its name from Freehold Raceway, Americas oldest harness horse racing track, dating from the 1830s. The old track is a remnant of Monmouth Countys long history of racehorse breeding, before Kentucky became pre-eminent.

Equestrian stables such as Burlington Farm, on a colonial road laid over an ancient Native American path to the Atlantic, continue this tradition. My school was across the street, and the horses running through the fields and poking their heads through the mossy split-log fencing mesmerised me as a child. Springsteens daughter, Jessica, was just as taken by horses, though her parents had the means to actually own them. She learned on her fathers estate in neighbouring Colts Neck and is now a champion rider.

Dedicated Springsteen fans can a take tour of the area. Stan Goldstein and Jean Mikle, members of the Spring-Nuts fan club, runs Springsteen tours (from $20pp, book through NJ Rock Map). As well as Asbury Park, their four-hour tour also includes Freehold, taking in Springsteens Catholic elementary school, St Rose of Lima, and the Karagheusian rug mill, where his father worked and which made carpets for Radio City Music Hall and the US Supreme Court.

If exploring on your own, check out Federicis Family Restaurant on 14 East Main Street. Owned for nearly 100 years by relatives of late founding E Street Band member Danny Federici, it is steeped in Italian-American and Springsteen history. Outside, in good weather, its one of the busiest downtown venues, with sidewalk seating near where bands play in summer. Much of the inside space is dark, cavernous and cosy, with booth seating and a menu heavy with Italian choices.

Nearby St Peters Episcopal is one of Americas last colonial churches and oldest continuous congregations. The current clapboard structure was begun in 1771. Construction halted in the Revolution, though it served as a storehouse and hospital during the Battle of Monmouth. As children, we were told the pews had patriots blood stains and there was a mass unmarked grave out front.

The American Hotel, on Main Street.

Freehold isnt a big town: most places are within walking distance of the bus station, from which half-hourly buses run to Manhattan. He mentions the bus stop in My Hometown (on the Born in the USA album) as the place his eight-year-old self would buy his father a newspaper.

If staying overnight, try the American Hotel (doubles from $135 B&B), which dates from 1827 and the stagecoach era. The facade is a more New Orleans than Mid-Atlantic, with its ornate wrought iron balconies overlooking outdoor tables on East Main Street. The rebuilt interior maintains the large Federal-style wooden fireplace, but the 20 spacious rooms have a neutral modern feel. The hotels lobby and bar have long made the American Hotel an important social centre in the middle of town a perfect place to raise a glass to the Bosss hometown.

Looking for a holiday with a difference? Browse Guardian Holidays to see a range of fantastic trips

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The long read: A bitter legal row over a mosque in an affluent New Jersey town shows the new face of Islamophobia in the age of Trump

Forty years ago, Mohammad Ali Chaudry, a Pakistani-born economist, made his home outside New York City. He came for an executive job at the telecoms company AT&T, and ended up working there for decades. Like many immigrants to the US, Chaudry came to wholeheartedly believe perhaps more fervently than his native-born neighbours in the triumphal story that Americans tell about their nation: how it was always growing stronger through change, melding the many into one through the process of assimilation. Chaudry was a devout Muslim. But to him, it always seemed the things that made him different mattered less than the ways in which he had proved he was the same.

Chaudry and his wife, who is from Italy, raised three children on a street called Manor Drive, in the town of Basking Ridge, in the centre of the state of New Jersey. This is not the Jersey of popular imagination the land of belching smokestacks immortalised in Bruce Springsteens working-class anthems. Basking Ridge is out in horse country, an area of rolling green hills and white-steepled churches, not far from Bedminster, where Donald Trump has his summer estate. In keeping with the values of his adopted community, Chaudry became an active member of the local Republican party and a conspicuous civic presence, running for various elected boards. In 2004, at the height of George W Bushs war in Iraq, Chaudry became the first Pakistani-American to serve as mayor of a municipality in the US.

Long after Chaudry retired from both AT&T and electoral politics, he continued to keep a busy schedule of volunteer activities, most focused on building religious tolerance. He ran a small nonprofit organisation called the Center for Understanding Islam, and taught classes at local universities. Chaudry is bantam-sized, with a silvery moustache and a starchy manner, and despite his age now 75 he possesses a bottomless reservoir of diligent energy. He would travel the state, speaking to audiences young and old, always dressing the part of a politician, with a little American flag badge in his lapel. If there was prejudice around him in his adopted hometown, Chaudry later said that it was not obvious, or visible, or overt.

That changed in 2011, when he found a new cause: building a mosque in Basking Ridge. For years, Chaudry and other local Muslims had been using a community centre for a makeshift Friday service. But Chaudry decided that the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge needed a permanent place to pray, and he located what he believed to be a suitable site: a four-acre lot occupied by a rundown Dutch Colonial house. Soon after purchasing it, Chaudry held an open house to greet the neighbours. There was not too much tension, he said. It was kind of jovial. He put the letters ISBR on the mailbox in front of the house, to announce the Islamic Societys arrival.

Then someone smashed the mailbox. I was, of course, very surprised, Chaudry said. Under New Jerseys planning laws, the Islamic Society had to secure the approval of the municipal government to build the mosque, and from his experience as a public official, Chaudry knew that the town, which prided itself on its quaint homes and a history dating back to colonial times, was resistant to new development of any kind. But this was a house of worship, and he was someone well-known to the community. Its not that I was expecting any favours, Chaudry said. I expected them to be fair. What shocked him, though, was the hatred.

That was seven long years ago, before some townspeople formed a group calling for responsible development in furious opposition to the mosque, before the 39 planning board hearings, before the mosque was rejected, before Chaudry filed a lawsuit alleging religious prejudice, before his lawyers uncovered racially charged emails among officials opposed to his plan, before the Obama administration accused the town of civil rights violations, before national rightwing activists took notice of the dispute and began smearing Chaudry as a terrorist sympathiser, and before Trump dragged anti-Muslim conspiracy theories from the disreputable fringes into the White House. Today, Chaudry knows his town and America better.

Long before Trump came along to capitalise on it, though, Islamophobia was building in the US, bubbling up like swamp gas from the depths. Often, racial conflict would manifest itself in small, seemingly isolated local planning fights over proposals to build mosques. The US Department of Justice, which staunchly defended the rights of Muslims during the Obama administration, noted a sharp increase in such mosque disputes between 2010 and 2016. Many took place in conservative locales such as rural Murfreesboro, Tennessee. But they also broke out in unexpected places such as Basking Ridge: a wealthy and well-educated community in the outwardly tolerant north-eastern US.

Basking Ridge is governed by a five-person elected committee, which meets in a repurposed Tudor-style mansion. (It previously belonged to John Jacob Astor VI, an American aristocrat whose father perished on the Titanic.) One evening last year, I attended a meeting the first of many at the town hall, where the committee members sat on a long dais, discussing their usual business, such as preparations for an upcoming celebration of the signing of Basking Ridges royal charter, in 1760. When the meeting was opened to comments from the public, however, all anyone wanted to talk about was Chaudry and the mosque.

The neighbours near this proposed mosque did not sign up to live next to this house of worship, said one resident, who broke down sobbing as she spoke. They have been members of a quiet residential neighbourhood for decades, and do not look forward to having their routines and lives disrupted.

The residents said the mosque would create traffic and commotion, and would ruin their property values. But they also complained about the tactics Chaudry had employed in his bitter court battle. One middle-aged woman gestured toward the mosque opponents in the audience, saying that many had been subjected to a hateful harassment campaign by the Islamic Societys attorneys, who had served them with subpoenas seeking the contents of their personal email and social media accounts, in an effort to prove that they were motivated not by planning concerns, but animosity toward Muslims.

Mr Chaudry has waged an expensive PR campaign that has talked about people as if theyre bigots, the woman said. And personally, I think it is the ISBR group that has been bullying and bigoted. Then she invoked Trump, the inescapable presence. They talk about our current president and how he speaks about Muslims. Well, I find ISBRs rhetoric to be just as harmful.

Finally, Loretta Quick, a schoolteacher who lived next door to the mosque site, got up to speak. She was one of the neighbours who had come to Chaudrys initial open house years before. She had even voted for him, back when he was a politician. Now she was a die-hard enemy of the mosque. If you cave, she told the board, in a furious voice, youre saying that we are bigots, that we based the decision on discrimination against Islam.

Quick was one of those who had been served with a subpoena, and was being represented by the Thomas More Law Center, an advocacy group that claims its mission is to defend Americas Judeo-Christian heritage and moral values against forces waging a Stealth Jihad to transform America into an Islamic nation. Quick referenced a recent press release the Law Center had put out, which had plucked a few verses from a searchable English translation of the Quran that could be accessed on the ISBR website Fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, etc to suggest that Chaudry was somehow in league with religious extremists.

These are words that seem quite intimidating and threatening to me, Quick said. I want to be protected, and you owe that to me, this township and this nation.

How did a small-town property dispute turn into a religious war, with legal and symbolic implications for all of America? Part of the answer has to do with the countrys labyrinthine land-use laws, which leave most control to state and local governments, which are in turn vulnerable to the furies of angry mobs. Part of it has to do with Americas love of litigation. The inherently confrontational and intrusive legal process had a radicalising effect on the town, driving some opponents of the development to extremes.

But something else deeper and darker seemed to be at work. Some residents openly discussed Islamophobic conspiracy theories, such as the idea that the mosque was meant to send a message of conquest, due to its proximity to the towns September 11 memorial. Such crackpot notions, promoted by far-right ideologues such as Pamela Geller and Frank Gaffney, used to be confined to the margins of the internet. Then Trump embraced the Islamophobes, unabashedly.

Its like his election has given permission to people, Chaudry told me the first time we met. We were at the proposed site of the mosque, sitting in the old suburban house that he was still hoping to demolish. Its living room, dominated by a large stone fireplace, was filled with boxes of donated clothes that he was preparing to deliver to a family of Syrian refugees. The many bookshelves were lined with theological texts and stacked copies of a paperback that Chaudry likes to give out, Islam Denounces Terrorism. Standing on an easel in a corner was a poster-sized rendering of the proposed mosque. In an effort to make it fit into its suburban surroundings, it had been designed to resemble a mini-mansion, with gray clapboard siding, a pitched roof with asphalt shingles, dormer windows and minarets disguised as chimneys.

Mohammad Ali Chaudry, the founder and president of the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, in his home office. Photograph: Fred R Conrad for the Guardian

But the architecture did little to defuse tensions with the surrounding neighbourhood. Liberty Corner considered itself separate from the older and wealthier village of Basking Ridge, though they were both part of the same larger township, and few outsiders recognised the geographical distinction. And as even Chaudry and his allies admitted, some of the locals had a stubborn and ecumenical commitment to protesting anyone who dared to build anything, including Christian churches. People in Liberty Corner expressed an obstreperous ideology often abbreviated as nimby, for not in my backyard.

The opponents of the mosque told their own story of victimisation, in which they were merely objecting to Chaudrys oppressive development scheme. It was always about land use, one Liberty Corner resident told me. They made it about religion. The nimby complainers claimed that the mosque site a marshy plot on a mainly residential street was a poor location for a busy house of prayer. When the township planning board took up Chaudrys proposal in August 2012, signs soon appeared in front yards around town, reading Preserve Liberty Corner.

At one of the first planning hearings, a resident named Lori Caratzola stood up to challenge Chaudry. A law graduate, she cross-examined him about the size of the Islamic Society, accusing him of understating its membership. She revealed that she had done surveillance of a Friday service, counting 125 worshippers going into a space with a capacity for 60. After her confrontational performance, Caratzola became a leader of the opposition.

At the public hearings, Caratzola and others confined their criticisms to the nimby issues: drainage, parking, landscaping and the like. They convinced the board that a mosque would need more parking spaces than a church, because midday worshippers would come alone. When the Islamic Society submitted a new plan, with a larger parking lot, the mosques opponents protested that, too. It quickly became clear that the opposition was not solely concerned with parking.

Around the time the hearings began, some residents received an anonymous piece of mail. Inside was a letter entitled Meet Your New Neighbor, and a CD containing a recording of a radio interview in which Chaudry had offered some mildly nuanced opinions on Israel, Hamas and Hezbollah. Here in Basking Ridge, on the surface, we see the serene, grinning academic Ali Chaudry, always willing to help us better understand the version of Islam he wants us to know, the letter read. Scratch the surface a little and an uglier picture emerges.

The author of the letter tenuously linked Chaudry to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Ground Zero mosque a proposed Islamic community centre in Lower Manhattan that Pamela Geller and Fox News had recently whipped up into a national controversy. It cited the term taqiyya, an obscure theological concept that Islamophobes often twist to suggest that Muslims are encouraged to lie about the true nature of their violent beliefs.

So, welcome to the neighbourhood, Ali, the letter concluded. Lets ask Ali about those Koranic verses regarding Jews and Christians in your Koran. Why are so many terroristic acts propagated by Muslims? Is it something they are taught in your mosques and at home? And what will you teach in your new Liberty Corner mosque? You wouldnt lie to us, would you? Taqiyya is wrong, right?

Just as the author of the letter accused Muslims of deception, the Islamic Society, in its lawsuit, alleged that many of the neighbours were presenting a false front, using preservationist sentiment to disguise their real, less respectable fears. The key thing to remember, said Adeel Mangi, an attorney for the Islamic Society, is that these complaints are commonly used as a smokescreen.

There is, literally, an anti-mosque playbook. Tactics were once unwritten, spread through websites and word of mouth, but more recently they were set down in a book titled Mosques in America: A Guide to Accountable Permit Hearings and Continuing Citizen Oversight. Written a Texas attorney, it was published by the Center for Security Policy, an organisation headed by Frank Gaffney, a former Reagan administration official who has long espoused the theory that Muslims are engaged in a secret plot to impose sharia law on the US. Gaffney writes in the books introduction that it is a how-to manual for patriotic Americans who are ready to counter the leading edge of Islamic supremacism.

The manual offers lessons from cases like the one in Basking Ridge. It may be startling to consider, but Islamists are entitled to exploit liberal free speech rights to advance their political and legal operations, the author warns. It advises residents to express objections in the manner most likely to sway the authorities, avoiding mention of religious issues. Concerned citizens must learn to express questions and reservations in a manner appropriate to the relevant civic forums purpose, the manual says, instructing readers that rather than expressing alarm as hysteria, speaking to local government officials and media requires a strategic response based on reason, facts, precedents, and the law.

Chaudry preparing the Bernards Township community centre for Friday prayers. Photograph: Fred R Conrad for the Guardian

Sure enough, the transcripts of the dozens of hearings held by the towns planning board, which run to nearly 7,000 pages, contain no mention of sharia, the Muslim Brotherhood or other rightwing hobgoblins. Most residents swore that religion had nothing to do with their opposition. But the Islamic societys lawyers suspected and would later allege in court that their opponents were showing another face when they talked to each other on the internet. A commenter named LC who appeared to be Caratzola often expressed anti-Muslim sentiments when the mosque was debated on local web forums and national sites with names such as Bare Naked Islam. (Motto: It isnt Islamophobia when they really ARE trying to kill you.) Caratzola was also listed as a member of a Gaffney-affiliated group set up to defend against the supposedly creeping influence of sharia on US courts. (I stand by that, Caratzola later told the New York Times, claiming that every single terrorist attack in the last 20 years was committed by Muslims.)

In December 2015, a few days after a Muslim husband and wife killed 14 people in a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, and shortly before candidate Donald Trump proposed a total and complete shutdown of Muslim immigration, the towns planning board voted to reject the mosque.

At Caratzolas urging, the town government also adopted a new ordinance that raised the minimum size of the plot required to build any new house of worship which would effectively prevent the Islamic Society from building on its own site in the future. The Islamic Society quickly filed a lawsuit against the township, alleging the opposition was a well-funded machine that was substantially grounded in anti-Muslim animus.

The lawsuit particularly highlighted Caratzolas role as a ringleader of the opposition. In a letter to a local newspaper, she accused the Islamic Society of slander and invoked the concept of taqiyya to suggest that Chaudrys mosque proposal was not what it seemed. Many people and groups in the Muslim community, she wrote, are trying to quash what we so fervently cherish in America the freedom of speech.

The Islamic Society also claimed it had the constitution on its side specifically, the first-amendment protection of the freedoms of religion and assembly. And Chaudry could call upon a powerful ally: Barack Obama. Under his administration, the Justice Department intervened on behalf of Muslims in many mosque disputes, including a highly publicised case in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where the construction of a mosque was opposed with lawsuits, protests and an arson attack. It was able to rely on a powerful legal tool: a law, originally passed with bipartisan support in 2000, that specifically bans local governments from discriminating against religious organisations when it comes to land use.

The enforcement policy reflected the fact that Islamophobia is a real problem across America, said Tom Perez, who handled the Murfreesboro case as a director of the Civil Rights Division. (He is currently chairman of the Democratic National Committee.) I think as you see the proliferation of social media, the world has gotten smaller, Perez told me. People who harbour these extreme views have a virtual platform to spread their hate.

In 2016, the US Justice Department filed its own lawsuit, claiming that the local planning board violated the Islamic Societys rights in rejecting its building plan. To Islamophobic activists, who spent the eight years of Obamas presidency promoting conspiracy theories about his birth certificate and suggesting he was secretly a Muslim, such moves were yet more evidence of the administrations suspiciously sympathetic stance toward Islam. Islamic supremacists and Muslim Brotherhood organisations called upon their running dogs at the Department of Justice to impose the sharia and usurp American law for Islamic law, Pam Geller wrote in a blogpost about the Basking Ridge mosque case. What small town can go up against the US governments vast resources and endless taxpayer-funded muscle?

The federal governments intervention had a radicalising effect in Liberty Corner. The neighbourhoods enemy was no longer a pushy former mayor; it was President Obama. Then, as if a Justice Department investigation wasnt intrusive enough, private citizens started receiving knocks on their doors from people carrying subpoenas, seeking to probe their email and social media accounts. The Islamic Societys lawyers members of a prestigious Manhattan firm that was working pro-bono wanted to prove that Caratzola was really the commenter LC, and that she and her allies were communicating their true attitudes to each other and to their elected leaders outside of the public meetings.

Understandably, though, the private citizens felt threatened by the intrusion. Their complaints attracted the attention of the Thomas More Law Center, which intervened on the behalf of residents seeking to quash the subpoenas, claiming that the demand would have a chilling effect on free speech. On its website, the Law Center decried the outrageous unconstitutional intimidation, alongside a heroic photo of Caratzola standing in front of an American flag. Lori Caratzola, the caption read. Persecuted for opposing the mosque.

On 31 December 2016, a federal judge issued a preliminary decision in the Basking Ridge case, finding that the planning board had exercised unbridled and unconstitutional discretion in requiring the mosque to have more parking than other houses of worship. Though the case was far from over, it was clear that the law favoured Chaudry. The victory rang hollow, though. Trump had just been elected president, giving a jarring rebuke to liberal values, and placing Muslim-Americans like Chaudry in a newly precarious position.

As a candidate, to bolster his call for a ban on Muslim immigration, Trump had often cited the research from the Center for Security Policy, Gaffneys group. (Very highly respected people, who I know, actually.) Some of his most important advisers, such as Steve Bannon and Mike Pompeo, soon to be named the CIA director, were outspoken Gaffney admirers. Gaffney saluted the new attorney general, Jeff Sessions the 2015 winner of the Center for Security Policys Keeper of the Flame award for his vigilance against all enemies, foreign and domestic. With Sessions and other members of the nativist right in charge of the federal government, the Justice Departments commitment toward protecting Muslims and their mosques looked shaky.

On a chilly Friday in April last year, still early in Trumps presidency, I helped Chaudry as he performed his weekly ritual, carrying items from the garage of the old house in Liberty Corner to his gold Toyota SUV. In went eight rolled-up prayer rugs, then the plastic donation boxes, the folding music stand that serves as a lectern, the sound system, the digital clock, which was synchronised with Mecca, and four decorative mats, which Chaudry uses to slightly sanctify the drab walls of the community centre that the Islamic Society currently uses for its Jummah service. When the SUV, known as the Mosque Mobile, was full, Chaudry would drive it across town for prayers. Im just overwhelmed with everything that is going on, he said as we got in the car. For the past few months, Trump had been fighting to impose his ban on travellers from seven Muslim-majority nations, sparking court confrontations and massive protests.

Chaudry was responding to the crisis with a characteristic burst of civic activity, participating in political forums and interfaith vigils. The relationship between Muslim communities and their government was wary at the best of times, and Trump was making it much worse, but Chaudry saw himself as a trust-building emissary. He served on advisory panels to law enforcement. A few weeks before, hed spoken about discrimination and the travel ban at a worried meeting between Muslim leaders and many prominent New Jersey politicians. At the forum, as he did nearly everywhere he went, Chaudry promoted an earnest personal cause, asking everyone present to take a formal pledge hed composed, to Stand up for the Other.

The Mosque Mobile turned on to Church Street, the main road through Liberty Corner. The neighbourhood traced its name back to the American revolution, and the whole town took great patriotic pride in the role it had played in the independence struggle, as a stronghold for George Washingtons army. Chaudry took a roundabout route, pointing out horse farms and new tract developments, and a park where the Islamic Society prayed when the community centre was used for a summer camp. Where the flag is, this is the 9/11 memorial, Chaudry said. I was on the township committee when we did that. Eighteen people here died. A wooded road took us into Basking Ridge. In the yard of its Presbyterian church, founded in 1717, stood an ancient tree known as the Holy Oak, where Washington is said to have picnicked with the Marquis de Lafayette.

The Liberty Corner Presbyterian church, a few blocks away from the proposed Islamic Center of Basking Ridge. Photograph: Fred R. Conrad for the Guardian

At the community centre, we were joined by Chaudrys wife, Victoria. We rolled out the mats and set up the speakers, and used a 30-metre (100-ft) sound cable to connect the small main room with an adjacent annex, which was used for overflow. Chaudry pointed, proudly, to his name on a plaque on the wall he had helped to establish the centre. About a decade before, he and around a dozen other Muslims had started gathering there. But there were more Muslims around than he realised, working as doctors in the areas hospitals, or as scientists in its many pharmaceutical firms, or as engineers at a big telecommunications company. The Islamic Society had long ago outgrown its temporary space.

The worshippers began to arrive, most of them men coming from office jobs, plastic ID badges hanging from their belts. They dropped their shoes in an unruly pile near the centres doorway, and used a cramped galley kitchen to perform wudu, the Muslim washing ritual. Then they knelt down as the muezzin sang a call to prayer.

Because it lacked a permanent home, the Islamic Society had no imam, and it relied on a rotating cast to lead services. This weeks visitor, Chaudry told me, was known as the crying imam. That week, dozens of Syrian civilians, including many children, had been killed in a poison gas attack, and the night before, Trump had fired cruise missiles in reprisal. The imam, dressed in a long black robe, led a prayer for our brothers and sisters in Syria. His voice trembling, he sobbed, Give peace to this region.

Thats one of his characteristics, Chaudry said after the service. He does become emotional. Most of the worshippers, who numbered around 70 in all, quickly returned to their cars and hurried back to work. Chaudry repacked the Mosque Mobile.

Ive been carrying these rugs for more than 10 years now, and Im tired of doing it, he told me. We need to have a place of our own.

As we drove out of Basking Ridge, Chaudry pointed out the Holy Oak, standing tall in the churchyard. The tree was rotten, he told me. Later that month, it would be cut down, and its dead branches handed out to townspeople as patriotic keepsakes.

Despite Trumps election, Chaudry still retained his hope for justice, at least for his congregation. The case was now in the courts, which meant the Justice Department couldnt easily abandon it. The towns government, facing an almost certain legal defeat, was under pressure from its insurance company to settle its lawsuit with the Islamic Society quickly, before a trial.

Throughout the spring and summer of 2017, negotiations dragged on over a settlement, which would include a large damages payment to the Islamic Society. I attended endless meetings of the townships elected committee, at which angry citizens would demand information from stone-faced board members, inveighing against the settlement in increasingly apocalyptic terms. Chaudry attended with other members of the Islamic Society. He sat in the front row but said nothing, keeping his head down and scribbling in a pad, showing no emotion even in the face of incendiary provocations.

The opponents were a surprisingly diverse lot. There were some old-money Protestants, who complained that the hubbub would bother their horses. But some of the most emotional speakers were new residents, many of them immigrants from south and east Asia. At one meeting, one of the Islamic Societys closest neighbours, a medical professional from India who was building a large house directly behind the mosque plot, stood up and addressed the Muslims in the audience directly.

If you are somehow able to get a mosque built, you will create a divide which you will not be able to bridge, he said. On the other hand, if the site would move to another appropriate location, you will earn our respect, and you will truly earn the right to build a mosque in this town. What is it that you want, to just build a mosque, or set an example for the whole country?

By the perverse logic of the mosque opponents, it was the Islamic Society that had brought discrimination upon itself, by suing over discrimination. There was only one thing the Muslims could do to prove themselves worthy neighbours: go somewhere else.

It wouldnt be fair to say, though, that everyone who spoke against the mosque was religiously motivated. Many, if not most, of the adversaries appeared to be genuinely impassioned in their opposition to development in Liberty Corner. Sure, theres a 5% lunatic fringe, Paul Zubulake told me one evening while sitting on a bench outside the town hall, waiting for yet another meeting to begin. But he said that for him, and many others, religion was beside the point: Its about our quality of life. Its going to destroy our community.

To show me what he loved about Liberty Corner, Zubalake invited me to visit his home, a few doors down from the Islamic Society property. When I arrived, on a rainy Memorial Day in late May, a soggy town parade was making its way down the main thoroughfare, Church Street. As Zubulake was introducing me to his family explaining that his son has autism, and they had moved to the area for his schooling he spotted the mayor marching by with other members of the township committee. He dashed down to the roadside and shouted: Theres still time!

The politicians frowned and kept marching down Church Street. I just want them to know how pissed off I am, Zubulake said.

Chaudry, meanwhile, had organised a contingent from the Islamic Society to march in the Memorial Day parade. They met in front of the house, next to a sign that Chaudry had staked in the yard, reading: Proud to Be An American. Whether by chance or intention, the parades organisers had put the Islamic Society at the very rear, right behind another marginalised group, the local Democrats. Chaudry coaxed the children who were marching with the Islamic Societys banner to stay in a tight formation. Good morning! he called from beneath a big black umbrella, waving an American flag with his free hand. The parade route ended at a war memorial, where Chaudry left a wreath with a mosque insignia.

My advice to the community has always been that this is not the time to hide, Chaudry told me later. You have to be out there, fighting for your rights.

To some people in Basking Ridge, Chaudrys struggle looked less noble. They saw his battle with the town government as a local political feud, which dated back to his tenure as an elected official, long before he ever proposed the mosque. Chaudry had first run for a seat on the town committee in 2001. After September 11, which hit the commuter town hard, he told the local newspaper: We are all under attack. But a Republican party leader called him to suggest it might be better if his campaign signs, which read Ali Chaudry, just used his last name. I said everyone knows who I am, Chaudry told me. Ive never kept it a secret. He won the election. But he was not universally popular.

The way the local government worked, the office of mayor rotated annually among the elected members of the township committee. In 2004, it was Chaudrys turn. As the USs first Pakistani-American mayor, he made a triumphant visit to his homeland, where he met with the foreign minister, and gave interviews in which he hinted that he had ambitions for higher office. But local critics found him arrogant and high-handed. The next time he was up for election, he held on to his committee seat by just 11 votes.

Chaudry speaking during Friday prayers at the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge. Photograph: Fred R Conrad for the Guardian

The local Republican party was also in the midst of a schism, and Chaudry and his allies were ultimately driven out by a more conservative faction, which ran on the slogan: Its Time To Take Your Town Back. The bad blood spilled over into the mosque dispute. The most damning evidence produced by the Islamic Society in the course of its lawsuit came from the correspondence of the towns elected officials, many of whom had formerly served and clashed with Chaudry. They expressed their hostility in raw, racially offensive terms.

A town committee member named John Malay compared Chaudry to a stereotypically shifty native character in the 1930s film The Lives of a Bengal Lancer. We [finally] ousted him, whereupon he went to Mecca, got a funny hat and declared himself the imam of a new mosque here in town, Malay wrote. Religion trumps even politics as a refuge for scoundrels, I guess.

Other emails contained jokes about Muslims, pigs and Barack Obama. Man child, John Carpenter, another committee member, wrote of Obama. The product of fools, raised by idiots and coddled by affirmative action. Behold the beast. The emails revealed that Carpenter had even lobbied to prevent Chaudry from participating in a September 11 commemoration ceremony, alleging he was an extremist. [Find] a real moderate Muslim, he wrote. There must be one. We shouldnt look the other way on his views we owe that to our dead residents. Lets make it happen without that fool. When the correspondence came out in court filings, Carpenter offered no apologies. You should not confuse contempt with bigotry, he told a newspaper. Im allowed to not like the guy.

Hes just a funny guy with this identity thing, Carpenter told me when we met for coffee at a diner over the summer. He was known as, quote, Mr Muslim.

Carpenter, a tall, balding salesman, had served on the town committee for more than a decade, and was running for re-election. He was outraged that his unguarded words had been used to portray him and the entire township as racist. When government tries to see into someones heart, thats when we fall into totalitarianism, he told me.

He advanced a conspiratorial theory, which I heard from other mosque opponents, that Chaudry had been engineering failure all along, so that he could sue and win millions in damages, as other mosques had done. He said he believed that Chaudry and the Obama administration had been conspiring. A Justice Department official involved in the investigation of the township, he noted, served with Chaudry on the board of a local universitys Center on Religion, Culture and Conflict. (Chaudry says they never discussed the case.)

I find it ironic that he served on this council for religious conflict, and what he really was trying to do here and I dont think he succeeded in the end, because people see through it is create a religious conflict, Carpenter said. I dont think what happened is fair to the people of the town, and I think its important for other people around the country to know whats coming their way.

Carpenter said he had been hopeful that Trumps election would bring a little sanity to the Department of Justice, and a reversal of its stance on the mosque case, but so far, he had been disappointed. He knew the president was spending his summer vacation at his private club in Bedminster, though, just a quick drive away from Basking Ridge. Hes there for three weeks, joked Carpenter, an avid cyclist. Maybe I could sneak in, ride my bike up the back road: I need to speak to the president!

All year long, as I kept returning to see Chaudry, Donald Trump loomed over our conversation. One Saturday morning in September, on my way to meet Chaudry at a Lutheran Churchs symposium on Race, Hatred and Bigotry, I looked up in the sky and saw the presidential helicopter heading toward Bedminster. Trumps embrace of the worst in politics fanning terrorism hysteria, retweeting racist memes, refusing to condemn the white nationalist demonstrators in Charlottesville had real consequences on the ground. People are emboldened to come out and say things that they never felt they could say before, Chaudry told the symposium. They have a licence, because the person in the highest office of the country is engaging in that kind of language.At one point, the room suddenly filled with a disconcerting roar from low-flying military jets.

Chaudry introduced a pair of high school girls, one of whom was wearing hijab, who eloquently described their experiences with bullying confrontations on the school bus and social media platforms. I would say to my non-Muslim friends: this is the Muslim community, Chaudry said when they finished their presentation.

As the controversy over the mosque moved toward a settlement, the town committee held a series of heated public hearings. Many members of the Islamic Society attended, to show a human face to their neighbours. They always took care to present themselves as model citizens: upscale professionals, and the parents of striving children.

We are not some strange boogeyman that came out of nowhere, Yasmine Khalil told me. She was a doctor and a vocal mosque supporter, who had moved to the township from Manhattan a few years before. Khalil said she had been dismayed to see the ugliness infiltrate even a private Facebook group for local mothers, where she had got into commenting wars about Islam. When I wasnt just quiet and silent and in the background, she said, they took it upon themselves to kick me out.

History has defined the New Jersey city as a hub for a host of jazz musicians from Sarah Vaughan to Christian McBride, and it remains a vibrant destination for fans of the genre

A year before he died in 1977, the blind jazz genius Rahsaan Roland Kirk inspired an impromptu parade in Newark, New Jersey. One minute he was playing the downtown club Sparky Js. The next he was leading his band, pied-piper-like, across the street to the Key Club, a different nightspot, while still making music on one of the three saxes he was known to play in unison and in harmony.

It was legendary, said Junius Williams, a Newark author and educator who also saw Dizzy Gillespie at Sparky Js back in the day.

It was also kind of prescient. In 2016, Newark is one nonstop, ongoing, jazz parade: Wynton Marsalis, the Robert Glasper Experiment, Dianne Reeves, Phil Perry, David Sanborn and Anjelique Kidjo have been in and out town for shows. Dorthaan Kirk, the widow of Rahsaan who goes by the nickname Newarks first lady of jazz, has hosted longtime greats including Freddy Cole, Jon Faddis and Rufus Reid at a pair of local series she organizes (both of them running through 2017, one of them free). And by the end of the year, a new, intimate club called Clements Place connected to the citys renowned Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers-Newark will have attracted the TS Monk Sextet and the soul-threaded and Eubie Blake Award-winning Houston Person Quartet.

Behind all the action is a celebration of the citys birthday 2016 marks Newarks 350th year that, together with the TD James Moody jazz festival, an annual celebration of jazz running through the end of November, has revived its reputation as a serious jazz town.

The Grammy-winning bassist and bandleader Christian McBride, who is performing at Moody Fest on 18 November alongside Sharon Jones, Bettye LaVette and the James Brown Alumni Band at the citys most thriving jazz venue, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, saw it coming.

Newarks place in jazz history includes Sarah Vaughan, Wayne Shorter, James Moody, Woody Shaw and Larry Young, among others. That coupled with its modern-day vibrancy makes Newark one of the greatest jazz cities in the world, McBride said in early November from Europe, where he was touring.

He is especially qualified to say so. McBride first played in Newark as a young performer 26 years ago and, since 2012, has been NJPACs jazz adviser; he also hosts the NPR show Jazz Night in America, a co-production with Lincoln Center and WBGO-FM, the only full-time jazz format station broadcast in New York and New Jersey. On 20 November he will be among the judges of what John Schreiber, founder of the Moody festival and NJPACs president and CEO, called one of the centerpieces of a monthlong event: the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Competition.

Jazz singing is bred in the bone. And Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald were kind of No 1 and No 2 in terms of the great individual voices of jazz singing, Schreiber said. Sarah Vaughan was an authentic Newark girl she went to high school here and lived a lot of her life here. And so I said, OK, what can we do to honor Sarah?

That was five years ago, when Schreiber signed on with NJPAC after decades of producing and curating festivals including Newport Jazz and JVC Jazz.

Sharon Jones will play the TD James Moody jazz festival in Newark later in November. Photograph: New Jersey Performing Arts Center

The result is the upcoming competition in which five finalists, whittled from a pool of hundreds around the world who sent online auditions to Newark this spring, perform before McBride and four fellow jazz-luminary judges Dianne Reeves among them plus a packed NJPAC house.

The winner is announced at the end of the night and walks away with a recording contract, a $5,000 prize and a slot to perform at the Montreal Jazz Fest next summer.

She also has a right to say she won the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Competition. And then all of a sudden she has some stature with the public, Schreiber said.

Jazz stature comes in a couple of shapes around Newark. There is the kind earned through sheer chops, like winning the vocal competition or commanding a massive audience during one of the organ jams held sporadically at Symphony Hall, a historic jazz venue not far from NJPAC. There is the kind Dorthaan Kirk has acquired through knowing everyone from Jimmy Heath to Gregory Porter and attracting them to town for her jazz series. (One is Dorthaans Place, a jazz brunch at NJPAC; the other is Jazz Vespers at Bethany Baptist church. Both are monthly, Bethany is free.)

There is also a kind of stature bestowed through scholarship. The night before the Sarah Vaughan competition, for example, McBrides Trio will play The Divine One, a concert at NJPAC honoring Vaughan that includes a film about her life and a panel discussion hosted by the longtime jazz producer Todd Barkan, also artistic director at Jazz at Lincoln Centers Dizzys Club Coca-Cola.

Like a lot of the smartest jazz events around town, its being sponsored by the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers-Newark.

The jazz institute, founded in 1952, is the most extensive jazz archive and library in the US. It includes more than 150,000 recordings and 6,000 books, and treasures such as Miles Daviss trumpet and Curly Russells bass. Before Ken Burns made his 10-part, Emmy-nominated mini-series Jazz in 2000, he spent a year exploring the institutes trove of recordings. Forest Whitaker visited the archives in 2011 for research on a film about Louis Armstrong, And Michael K Smith spent some time browsing there after his role as Chalky White on HBOs Boardwalk Empire got him interested 20s- and 30s-era jazz.

Carrie Jackson performing at Clements Place. Photograph: Ed Berger

Earlier this year, the Jazz Institute entered the club business with Clements Place, a 75-seat venue done up in jazz memorabilia on the ground floor of a historical neoclassical Newark skyscraper. Minus the whiffs of cigar smoke and seal-fresh whiskey (Clements pours beer and wine only), its a throwback to the tight-knit jazz communities documented in the archives.

I didnt expect it, but I love running the bar, said Wayne Winbourne, the institutes executive director. Clements is named for Dr Clement A Price, a beloved Rutgers-Newark professor and devoted jazz fan who died suddenly in 2014. Were open to the community, so were seeing a cross-section of folks from Newark who are bringing real energy and dynamism.

Theyre bringing it to monthly jam sessions organized in cooperation with NJPAC as part of the 350th birthday celebration, and theyre bringing it to more subdued events such as a series of curated listening sessions Winbourne says he is sprinkling in at Clements once or twice a month, between shows and jams. Theres already been listening sessions on very early Louis Armstrong and Harry Sweets Edison.

Weve got incredible experts on staff who are just extremely knowledgeable, said Winbourne. Sometimes we get 10 people, sometimes we get 30. But well have a drink, then well play a cut. Then well have another drink, and play another cut. Its another way for us to bring the archives to the public, to draw upon the expertise of our staff and to engage the community. Were tapping into an opportunity there.

Theres also an opportunity, because of the institutes reputation and because I know folks, said Winbourne, to draw artists who might otherwise skip Newark when playing across the river in New York.

We have the Lance Bryant Quartet coming in later this year he played with Lionel Hampton and a concert coming up with the flutist Elise Wood. And Im hoping to get Steve Wilson and Luis Bonilla in here, said Winbourne.

He may not have to try too hard: Theres a jazz atmosphere now thats so intimate, where we all feel so connected, Winbourne said. I think all of us here in Newark are looking at the rise of something special, something people are going to be talking about a long time.

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Rapper appeared in court with wads of cash sticking out of his pockets before being ordered to pay fine for driving with tinted windows and suspended license

Fetty Wap says he brought about $165,000 in cash to a New Jersey municipal building where he admitted to charges including driving with tinted windows and a suspended license.

The 25-year-old rapper, whose name is Willie Maxwell II, was ordered to pay $360 in fines. The Paterson native appeared in a Cedar Grove court on Wednesday with wads of cash sticking out of his pockets.

Maxwell also pleaded guilty to failing to replace lost, destroyed or defaced license plates and a false burglar alarm that went off at his home more than twice.

Maxwells attorney says his client has applied for a medical exemption for the tinted windows.

He says Maxwell, who is blind in one eye due to a childhood eye affliction, has glaucoma.

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New Jersey is so friggin’ great it makes me want to puke up all the WaWa I just emotionally ate in the name of Chris Christie’s front-butt.

The rest of the nation dumps on the Garden State constantly for being “the armpit of America,” which is insane considering the people of Florida have not yet used their homemade possum-tooth chainsaws to cut the state looseand float away as an independent swamp country (I’m so, so sorry. When a Jersey native is backed into a corner, slamming Florida is panic move numero uno).

Fortunately for us New Jerseyans, July 3 through July 9 is “Be Nice to New Jersey Week.” In honor of this brief reprieve from being labeled the trashiestsadness pit in the whole United States, I’m rounding up the greatest gifts New Jersey has given the world.


1. Air Conditioning

This state has all four seasons, what a gift! One of these seasonsis summer, AKA three months each yearwhenNJ’s citizens get to experience what it’d be like if they climbed back up inside their mothers’ wombs.

It’s hot. It’s moist. It’s open season on plastic chairs because, let’s face it, we’ll all be remembered by the upsetting design our butt sweat leaves the moment we stand up.

Our — and every other state’s —escape from the heat and humidity of the summer months is glorious, freezing, put-your-sweet-face-right-in-front-of-it-and-let-it-transport-you air conditioning.

In 1915, Willis Carrier founded the Carrier Engineering company in Newark, and six years later patented the centrifugal chiller. Carrier’s invention was the first to cool large spaces and make fans look like the hot-air-spinning loads of crap they truly are.

According to New Jersey Monthly, the chillers were even used in the freaking White House executive offices. Those are basically THE MOST IMPORTANT OFFICES IN THE COUNTRY.

Carrier’s 1928 Weathermaker, the first chiller created for use in private residences, allowedour plebe ancestorsto enjoy the sameconditioned comfort as lawmakers.

2. So Many Rock Stars Who Are Probably Someone’s Dad Now

Bruce Springsteen? Someone’s dad.

Bon Jovi? Someone’s dad.

The Misfits? Someone’s Doyle Wolfgang von DADenstein.

3. Carl Sagan

Is science important to you? Don’t answer that. It is. You ARE science, you idiot.

Legendary astrophysicist Carl Sagan was born in Brooklyn, but it was that solid Rahway High School education that gave him the brain tools he needed to mold the American space program, assemblethe first physical messages launched into space (SPACE, you guys, OUTER EFFING SPACE) and win a motha-lovin’ Pulitzer Prize for his book “The Dragons of Eden: Speculations of the Evolution of Human Intelligence.”

Sagan helped us understand our place in the world and, more importantly, New Jersey’s place in the world.

4. The GOAT Club

Whitney Houston: Greatest Voice Of All Time

Meryl Streep: Greatest Actress Of All Time

John Travolta: Greatest Scientology Cyborg Of All Time

5. “Game of Thrones,” Sort Of

Author George RR Martin is from Bayonne, mmkay? Perhaps, one frigid February morning, he gazed at the airport across the frozen Newark Bay and thought to himself,

Oh, Newark Liberty International Airport, take me away. I want to see the world.

Instead of hopping on a plane, because air travel is hella expensive and children generally don’t have income, Martinlet JRR Tolkien guide his mind on adventures that would one day inspire all the weird sex scenes we have to sit through silently on Sunday nights with our families.

For worse (Jon Snow is dead!) or better(Jon Snow is alive!), the world has Jersey to thank for “Game of Thrones.”

6. Bubble Wrap

Let’s kick it back to 1957 in Hawthorne, when Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes created a load of little air pockets between two sealed shower curtains and attempted to sell it as the world’s fugliest wallpaper.

The duo founded the Sealed Air Corporation three years later and, in 1961, realized they could use their product to gently ship valuables and dishes and mirrors and other fragile nonsense safely.

Also,your fiend ass is addicted to popping those little bubsand you know it.

7. So. Many. Rappers. So Many.

The Fugees


Queen Latifah

Fetty Wap


In “Don’t Fuck With New Jersey,” Young Zee of Newark collective The Outsidaz raps,

You heard me, don’t fuck with New Jersey
Fuck around and cause a demolition derby

Truer words, man.

8. My Mom, Deb

Deb has spent the majority of her life in New Jersey and, since she is both a precious saint and a legitimately insane person, perfectly represents the charmingly unpredictable quality of our small state.

Here she is sliding into your DMs:

Here she is renaming herself and my father six decades into their lives:

Here she is petting an imaginary horse at NJ’s own Doris Duke Estate:

Here she is RSVPing for a wine cruise MONTHS in advance:

Deb is New Jersey. New Jersey is Deb.

9. Kelly Ripa’s Tiny Yet Powerful Body and Indomitable Spirit

It’s not always easy being Kelly Ripa, but that doesn’t stop her from waking up every damn day and fulfilling the nation’s every expectation as America’s sweetheart.

Ripa hails from Stratford, which is probably where she learned to deadlift the combined weight of a fullfleet of Viking longships. Jersey is intense like that.

When she isn’t charming the pants off everyone on daytime television, she’s raising money for The Ovarian Cancer Research Fund to keep women safe and healthy. She also works with Mothers Against Drunk Driving to keep Jersey (/all) kiddos alive.

10. Vitamin C’s “Graduation (Friends Forever)”

OK, alright, ALL of Vitamin C is from New Jersey, but as a human race we can easily agree“Graduation” is the most valuable gem of her career.

Here’s how one can only assume the Old Bridge native’s original draft of the song went:

As we go on [through New Jersey]
We remember [New Jersey and]
All the times we [New Jerseyans]
Hadtogether [in New Jersey]
And as our lives change [for better or for New Jersey]
Come whatever [New Jersey wants for us]
We will still be friends forever [with New Jersey]

Wow. It’s truly like graduating elementary school all over again.

11. Valium

You’re welcome, trophy wives.

12. All The Frank Sinatras

Frank Sinatra loved to open his big mouth on the regular to praise New York, but he was born in Hoboken and his son, Frank Jr., was born in Jersey City.

If you’ve ever eaten at a steakhouse, attended a Christmas party or gone shopping for gold chains with your cousin Vito, you’re already aware of the impact the Sinatra family continues to have on our senses.

Frank Sinatra might have been a batshit insane curmudgeon with alleged links to organized crime, but he was our batshit insane curmudgeon with alleged links to organized crime, and his music taught us to love with confidence.

13. Nick Jonas’ Glistening Abs

Everyone’s favorite red-carpet-boner-haveris from — you guessed it, ya big stinkin’ genius — NJ. The “Bacon” singer grew up in Wyckoff with his brothers, former memb…

Wait, sorry. My elbow just slipped in a puddle of my own drool. I slammed my head on the table and was knocked out for like two hours, but it was worth it and I’m good n…

14. Taylor Ham/Pork Roll Egg and Cheese









Be nice to New Jersey, just for this week. You owe it to us.

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