Category Archives: Faith and Social Justice

items from Not in Our Town Princeton (http://niotprinceton.org) and Princeton United Methodist Church (http://princetonumc.org)

Welcome to Princeton!

 

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Tom Shelton, children’s choir director at Princeton United Methodist Church, welcomes three and four-year-olds to musical fun during Sunday morning Sunday School.

Dear new neighbors! Welcoming people to Princeton is one of my favorite things to do. For families with young children, here is a sprinkling of not-so-obvious opportunities that are good to know about for this summer and fall.

Music Together, for your 3 year old and even your new baby, is a cost-effective activity for families. Did you know that children get all their tone discernment before the age of 5? With this program, the parents learn the songs (with weekly classes of fun activities with the kids) and the tunes are integrated into your daily life. There are classes everywhere including at my church at the corner of Nassau, opposite the Garden Theater). Which brings up —

Princeton United Methodist Church – we have excellent music programs for all ages, even as young as three. Pictured above, our children’s choir director, nationally known, is Tom Shelton. We welcome a new preacher, Trey Wince  on July 16 and begin monthly alternative worship services on July 23. If Sunday morning attendance isn’t for you, but you’d like to meet some families with kids, come to a ‘fun night’ on July 16, 7 p.m. and on later dates this summer, details here.

Another good place to meet families with kids is Marquand Park. Playgroups seem to congregate there.  Harrison Street Park has good 3-year-old opportunities (sand box, good swings) but gets fewer visitors. And then there’s the little Sigmund Park, named after a beloved mayor, opposite Westminster Choir College or Mary Moss park, if it’s reopened, in the Witherspoon Jackson neighborhood. In the fall, try the events at Cotsen Children’s Library, part of Firestone at the university but you can also just browse. And of course the story hours at the Princeton Public Library are probably the most populated.

Newcomers may not realize that the “go-to” newspaper for local news is an unassuming little paper called Town Topics. It doesn’t look like much, but it’s generally accurate. You’ve been getting it on Wednesdays. I’m very interested in newspapers because I was editor, for two decades, of U.S. 1 Newspaper known online as PrincetonInfo.  The sister monthly paper is the Princeton Echo. U.S. 1 has newsstands and pick-up points in town (the closest to us is Bank of America or Whole Earth) but its major distribution is to businesses – retail and corporate – in greater Princeton, which encompasses three counties and 27 municipalities. People love it for many reasons but an important one is the “go-to” event calendar. I’m retired, but am still on the masthead thanks to an ever-loyal boss.  Here is his account of the area newspaper scene.

When visitors come to town (you will get plenty, Princeton is a draw), they’ll want to see Einstein’s house, but there are several other Einstein-mania sites: the mini museum in back of Landau’s and the sculpture. a good photo-op, at the intersection of Bayard and Nassau.

If you have concerns about social justice, I work with Not in Our Town Princeton, and we do first Monday “Continuing Conversations on Race” at the Princeton Public Library. We will also have a booth at the – mark your calendar – Community Night at the community pool, free admission, bring bathing suits, August 1, 5 to 8.

Other town-wide parties: the Thursday night concerts at the Princeton Shopping Center and McCarter Theatre’s open house on August 23 (food and free entertainment). Students at Princeton University put on a rip-roaring kids show in the summer, apparently suitable for age 3 as they encourage three-and-under to attend free; this year it’s about Amelia Earhart, 

And so you know what I look like, here is a picture of me, featuring my button collecting interest, used here at Princeton Comment.

Whew! Now that I’ve done this I’m going to post it on my blog – without your names of course – to help other families with kids. Do comment on anything that you’ve found. First impressions of a new town are priceless and easily forgotten, so pass them on!

Your Jugtown neighbor, Barbara Fox

College Prep: money makes the difference

Paying to take a Princeton Review SAT course seemed, in the mid 1980s, grossly unfair to those who couldn’t afford it.  But we had our kids take them. It helped one win a scholarship and the others learned test-taking smarts useful later.

Princeton Review had recently been founded by an unabashedly aggressive marketer,  John Katzman.  He had gone to a toney prep school on the Upper East Side and then to Princeton University.  For a U.S. 1 article, he posed for a photo with a company logo busting off his T-shirt pecs like Superman’s.  In those early days he hired cool-looking Princeton undergraduates to berate, cajole, and joke privileged teens into studying hard for the SAT.  A big part of the appeal, I heard, was their profanity. In the genteel ’80s it must have been exciting to have teachers, not much older than their students, using forbidden words.

Princeton Review went public, was bought back, and is now owned by tutor.com. It has 4,000 teachers and tutors, lots of online resources, and has published more than 150 print and digital books.

What is it about this Ivy-League school that encourages educational start-ups? Triggering this trip down memory lane is the announcement from Labyrinth Bookstore.

Plan to attend Labryinth Books’ free 1 hour seminar on Saturday, July 8, at 3 p.m. Kevin Wong—co-founder of Princeton Tutoring and wongPrepMaven.—will share a framework for how to think properly about the college admissions and preparation process. Wong is a mentor at the Princeton University Entrepreneurial Hub (eHub) and is an Executive Board Member of the Asian American Alumni Association of Princeton (A4P). Kevin and his brother were engineering majors at Princeton and had successful careers as strategy consultants and hedge fund operators. They now apply their data and research-backed problem solving skills to the college preparation process. Their unique approach places a heavy emphasis on personal development, character, and service as key components of college admissions success.

After graduating from Princeton in 2005, Kevin Wong and his brother Greg founded Princeton Tutoring. It resembles Princeton Review so closely that their websites list the caveat “Not affiliated with Princeton Review.”

Another seeming difference is that the Wongs are dedicated to “giving back,” supporting local and international educational charities. Many college admission aids are free and online.

Still, the workshop can be pricey, even at a discount. For help in writing the college essay, students can attend a three-day workshop, based at Princeton Theological Seminary, for only $399, reduced from $900.

Today’s teens feel like they need to have their game face on as early as 8th grade. So to encourage the worried, Princeton Tutoring offers a three-hour “get your resume ready in high school” workshop for $199, reduced from $500. They call it “strategic planning.”

I’ve heard from very satisfied parents that these consultations really work.

But I’m left standing at square one. It’s hard for first generation college applicants to find their way through the maze when this is all new to their parents. What about those who don’t have the prep school counselors and the money for private tutors. Isn’t this yet another troubling example of privilege?

Yes, I’m talking about white privilege.  I certainly had it. Concerns over my privilege won’t keep me from supporting my grandchildren whatever way I can, but I think about how, on my mother’s side, my grandmother and all her sisters were college graduates and that was in the 19th century. On my father’s side, his immigrant father forbade him to go to college but his mother prevailed. He pulled himself and his siblings up by his bootstraps.

I’m happy to see that the Wongs do offer free stuff. They have an advice blog and some free seminars, like the one at Labyrinth.  Their consultants can work by the hour, a cost-effective substitute for the workshops.

Some students will succeed no matter what. In interviewing students for the college I attended, I can pick them out. Like my very motivated father, they will make it, no matter what. For the kid with less drive, less genius — for the kid in the middle, it’s worth spending the money or the time to get the inside information. Money can make the difference.

 

 

 

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No that’s not what Jesus said

To read “The strange origins of the GOP ideology that resists caring for the poor” click here.  Reported by Jack Jenkins, the senior reporter of Think Progress. huston

Having just come from the Frederich Beuchner writers workshop at Princeton Theological Seminary, I can testify that  virtually all the attendees and workshop leaders agree with Jenkins.

 

 

presidential scholars in Princeton

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Winona Guo and Priya Vulchi 

On May 5 the U.S. Department of Education released the names of the Presidential Scholars, two students from each state plus winners from the arts and career/technology. This year’s Presidential Scholar List include a student from Princeton High School, Winona Guo, and one from Mercer County’s Health Science Academy, Sanjana Duggirala, of East Windsor.

Established in 1964 the program was expanded to include those who excel in the arts, as well as in academe, and it was expanded again in 2015 to add those in career and technical fields. I remember how excited I was when, in 1979, dancers were included in this prestigious program. Some years, the arts scholars performed at the Kennedy Center. 

Here is how the scholars are selected. Under the original plan, the first cut is by SAT or ACT scores — the top 20 men and women from each state.  For New Jersey, more than 350 were selected. This includes those who were selected by different criteria — for their achievement in the arts or in career technology fields. Then that group submits materials: essays, self-assessments, secondary school reports, and transcripts.  That winnowed it down to 16, plus four arts students and two career/technology students.

Here’s where the essays and extra-curricular activities really count. Duggirali was  named a Public Health Leadership scholar and state president of the New Jersey Association of Student Councils. 

Surely what helped Winona Guo to win was her amazing work, along with Priya Vulchi, as co-founders of Princeton CHOOSE.  Together, they worked to overcome racism and inspire harmony through exposure, education, and empowerment. Together, they wrote a much acclaimed textbook about race.  I came to know Guo and Vulchi as  board members of Not in Our Town Princeton,  Both made invaluable contributions and modeled how to work together as a team of two . Working in tandem – always together – they muster support from peers and adults to accomplish what many thought impossible.

Congratulations all-round!

 

Happy birthday, boss!

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Happy birthday to Richard K. Rein, who turned the Big Seven Oh yesterday and ruminated on the milestone in his column today, here. 

Seventy’s good, from my point of view. Seven years ago I ruminated on the same number,  here.  The wisdom that still works today is from Frederick Buechner: “The place God calls you to is where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

Many happy returns, Rich, of the non-retail kind.

 

Youth Talk about Race: Saturday morning

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The See Me Hear Me youth 

Two important discussions, among youth, take place Saturday morning. The local one welcomes all but requires reservations. Anyone can just show up to the national event.

On April 29, the Minority Student Achievement Network (MSAN) and PULSE youth organizations of Princeton High School will bring together students, parents, teachers, school staff, community partners and organizations for a day of discussions on current topics impacting our schools and community. In addition to hearing from guest motivational speaker Jonice Arthur, participants will have opportunities to dialogue in small groups, hear from a student-led panel, and enjoy lunch while engaging and encouraging our future leaders.

The event will take place from 9 am to 1 pm at Princeton High School 151 Moore Street Princeton, NJ 08541. RSVP required.

 

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Cornell William Brooks, keynote for Princeton Prize in Race Relations

Also on Saturday morning, April 29, 7:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., the Princeton Prize in Race Relations invitest the community to its symposium. Held in Dodds Auditorium, Robertson Hall, it begins with a continental breakfast and the program starts at 8:30 a.m. The Princeton Prize in Race Relations (PPRR) recognizes and rewards high school students who have had a significant positive impact through volunteerism on race relations in their schools or communities.

The prize winners participate in four panels, followed by an 11 a.m. keynote address, “A Woke Democracy,” by Cornell William Brooks, president of the NAACP. Members of the community are warmly invited to attend. No registration is needed.

 

Listening to the Liturgical Year

woodwinds brass and Hyosang and part choir
Hyosang Park directs the combined choirs and a chamber ensemble at PrincetonUMC

In a NYT article, Choral Music is Slow Food for the Soul, composer Nico Muhly has wise observations about how “the choral tradition operated in a series of interlocking cycles based on the liturgical year, with the music and the musicians playing a role in a larger drama.” Rather than expecting applause, church choir singing is  “meant for worship…to be heard in a state of quiet meditation.. to guide the mind out of the building into unseen heights and depths.”

Muhly’s essay is meant to be a paean to Andrew Gant’s book O Sing Unto the Lord: A History of English Church MusicFor me, it’s an affirmation of how — week after week, sitting in a church pew, listening to the Princeton United Methodist Church’s Chancel Choir — opens up my spiritual horizons. I am also inspired by the special music offered during Holy Week.  This year Hyosang Park directs Anton Bruckner’s Requiem on Good Friday, April 14, at 7:30 p.m.,

As Muhly points out, live concerts of liturgical music follow the calendar.  He finds himself “looking forward to a work’s annual visits as I would the arrival of a long-distant friend.”

Other notable choral concerts of the season — the Brahms Requiem by the Voices chorale on April 8, the Princeton Theological Seminary Choir on April 22, the Bulgarian State Women’s Choir on April 17.

Choristers — and attentive listeners — will agree with Muhly, that the liturgical tradition of choral music brings  “sharp pangs of nostalgia, followed by a sense of gratitude that this tradition has been such an important part of my musical world.”

FYI: At Princeton United Methodist Church, the Chancel Choir, directed by Hyosang Park, sings at the 11 a.m. worship service. Tom Shelton directs the Youth Choir (at 9:30 a.m. on first Sundays) and the Children’s Choir (at 9:30 a.m. on second Sundays). The Handbell Choir, directed by Park, plays at both services on third Sundays, and a contemporary ensemble plays at both times on fourth Sundays. Everyone’s welcome to — just listen. 

Bridgegate: Now Bordergate?

A Canadian mission team, ages 15 to 60, aiming to help rebuild homes from Superstorm Sandy was turned away at the border, according to this report.

They were to be hosted by a church whose minister, Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale of the Reformed Church of Highland Park, has been labeled “a vocal critic of Trump’s immigration orders.” (He is also the Green Party candidate for governor.)

According to the Customs and Border Patrol, they lacked the government letter needed to prove the project is needed. But mission teams have, for years, entered the United States from Canada without such documentation.

This group of teenagers and parents was told, by the immigration officials, that there was a danger that they might take away American jobs — and that there was no more need for home rebuilding resulting from Superstorm Sandy. No more need? Four years after the storm, more than 4,000 people have not recovered. Churches in New Jersey — including my own, the United Methodist Church of Greater New Jersey — are still working and collecting donations to get people back in their homes.

Does this seem like payback to you?

At the minimum, the United States loses tourist dollars. And trust. According to this report in The Guardian the Girl Guides of Canada have canceled all trips to the United States.

 

 

Book Review: Simona L. Brickers

levineSimona L. Brickers, my colleague on the board at Not in Our Town Princeton, reviewed this book by Caroline Levine. Thank you, Simona, for drawing my attention to Forms: Whole, Rhythms, Hierarchy, Networks (192 pages, $19.95, Princeton University Press).

Levine’s book is a fascinating journey through Forms, defined as the “fluid overlap of social and cultural order, patterns, and shape that open up to the “generalizable understanding of political power” (Chapter 1).  It brings together, nicely outlined, literary work by Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens, Jacques Derrida, and Ralph Waldo Emerson along with many others. It weaves the literary examples into accounts of lived examples of institutionalized, systemic, freedoms and constraints that influence social collaboration and chaos.

In relating the act of punishment to rhythm, Levine highlights African music as repetitive, cyclical, polyrhythmic and dialogic and expressing pleasures that produce a participatory and embodied collective singing.  Rhythms turned out to be the repressive form used against African captives by slave masters to impose solidarity, control, and subjugations through chain gang songs (Chapter 3).

Levine’s central concern, as reflected in her title (Forms: Whole, Rhythm, Hierarchy, Network), was to present a platform to explore the phenomenon called “path dependency.”  Path dependence is learned helplessness depicted as a systematic composition that constricts diversity (race and gender) with barriers that prohibit reversal because of social and organizational cost.  The mechanism of sex is a device that produces hierarchical distinction (Chapter 4). The implicit disconnect in the various forms creates constraints and differences. Various forms overlap and intersect. They travel and influence political policies in particular historical contexts (Chapter 1). 

Nevertheless, the whole theoretical concept is misleading when it is carefully examined to reveal the social advantages that differ according to the traditional rhythms of the hierarchical color-coded network . Levine quotes Derrida’s work because the desire for bounded wholeness has grave political consequences (Chapter 2). Levine addressed the underpinning of social order, pattern, and shape by examining the dysfunction of forms. She also studied how the web translates into “literature as landmarks,” depicted as advanced transgression.  “Repetitive temporal patterns impose constraints across social life…standard repetition, durations, and arcs of development organize our experiences of everything from sleep and sex to governments and the global economy (Chapter 3).

 Levine writes brilliantly. Each word captures an essence of social order, patterns, and shapes (norms) that have become invisible, taken for granted without acknowledgement of the transhistorical or macro-environmental influences on society and the policies governing our daily routines.  The reader learns that we are not authentic — but domesticated, trained to behave, believe, and act according to a socialized outline that serves some differently than others , with no regard to how overlapping forms influence injustice.

Her masterful last chapter discusses The Wire (2002-2008),  the David Simon HBO series. This conventional cop drama exploration of the ways that social experience is structured within African American communities (Chapter 5).  The Wire rendered radically unpredictable and overlapping social forms. Levine ends the book by leading readers to contemplate the unsettled, unexpected and bewildering effects of an ideologically coherent society with power lodged in the hands of a few.  The challenge is self-reflective, aiming to push the reader to seek beyond what is controlled by a few — the societal whole, rhythms, hierarchies, and networks that influence social order, patterns, and shape individual and collective Forms.

Levine asked this question on page 18: “Which form do we wish to see governing social life, then and which forms of protect or resistance actually succeed at dismantling unjust, entrenched arrangements?”

The book is a masterpiece. It offers an opportunity to read, reread, and discuss the forms that are accepted as “unchangeable.”

Simona L. Brickers