Paterson NJ’s Jaquair Gillette has been hailed as “more than just an artist”

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PATERSON – Jaquair Gillette of Paterson – a local actor, artist and activist – has had a busy week.

It started on Monday in Jamaica, Queens, where Gillette played a small role in the filming of an episode of the “FBI” televised crime drama. Then, over the next few days, he reworked the script for a film he produced.

Finally, on Friday, her 36th birthday, Gillette was at the Green Acre Community Garden in Paterson’s 4th Ward, removing weeds and brush as part of her volunteer work there. That same day, he published an e-book of poems, titled “Defiance and Desperation,” including works he planned to perform at a poetry workshop at the Paterson Museum on Saturday.

“I’m excited about him,” said Talena Queen, herself a poet, Paterson School teacher and one of the organizers of Saturday’s event at the museum. “I think he’s one of those people who has created their own model of success. He’s more than just an artist. We want to help the public express themselves.

Museum director Jack Destefano praised Gillette’s outlook.

“He is perhaps the most positive person you will meet in Paterson,” said DeStafano. “I love when he’s around, because he cheers me up.”

Gillette admitted he was both “nervous and extremely confident” about her reading on Saturday.

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“I want it to be well received,” he said. “You want to arouse emotion. You want to make people think. You want the audience to see inside of themselves.

Gillette grew up on 10th Avenue in Paterson, attended nearby school 21, and graduated from Eastside High School before moving on to Ramapo College. Gillette had friends and family who dealt drugs. When he was 9, he witnessed a double shooting from a window in his house.

But he managed to challenge the stereotypes associated with young men in the city’s infamous 4th arrondissement.

“I knew there was more to the world outside of Paterson and I wanted to be a part of it,” he said.

Gillette travels to Manhattan regularly for readings at the Nuyorican Poets Café. He was in Asbury Park when one of his films, “3rd & 4th Chapters”, was screened there during the Garden State Film Festival, as part of a 10-city tour. He lived briefly in California a few years ago.

But he said he always ends up in Paterson and speaks with pride and love about his city.

“It’s home,” he said. “On the contrary, I try to be a positive example of the people created by Paterson.”

Gillette spoke during an interview on the neglected patio outside the Ivanhoe Wheelhouse, a 19th-century industrial building near the Great Falls. Once a thriving arts hub of the city, the Ivanhoe Wheelhouse has been vacant for more than five years, the victim of the internal behind-the-scenes feuds that have plagued Paterson’s arts community for the past decade.

Heather Garside, curator of the museum, described Gillette as a “field artist” who has managed to avoid becoming entangled in the conflicts of the past.

“He was able to get by,” Garside said.

Saturday’s workshop at the museum is one of three events designed to inspire local poets to produce works that will be part of a Paterson poetry exhibition next April.

Gillette has a part-time job in a medical lab in Elmwood Park. Someday he would like to earn enough income from his artistic endeavors to focus only on them.

“The starving artist could be a cliché,” he said. “But that’s not a myth.”

Gillette has said that most of his acting roles have played people in the military or law enforcement, such as in a recent episode of “Law and Order: Organized Crime” in which he played a district attorney. deputy district. Recently, for the first time in his career, he played a street drug dealer.

“I try to avoid these roles,” he said.

Joe Malinconico is editor of Paterson Press. E-mail: [email protected]

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