Category Archives: Faith and Social Justice

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

Race and Protest at Princeton and in Trenton

IMGP2677Welcome to the 54th reunion for Princeton’s Class of ’64! Not the “regular” class. Instead, we’re convening at the reunion for a special summer program for disadvantaged high school kids from the city. Its most well-known graduate – Harlan Bruce Joseph. Like most at the beginning of this tour, I had no idea who he was or what his fate would be.

Today (5-31-18) Kyle Berlin (Valedictorian for the class of 2018) and Milan Eldridge (Class of 2020) led three dozen people – townies and alumni — in a  performance walk “Walking Histories: Race and Protest at Princeton and in Trenton,” one of five different tours offered by the Trenton Project.  At this writing, three performances remain, all starting at Princeton University Art Museum. If you read this in time they are – all different —

Friday, June 1 at 10 a.m. Performed by Berlin and Eldridge, written by Berlin and Anna Kimmel.

Friday, June 1 at 11 a.m. Written and performed by Ben Bollinger: “Whites turn around to see a Negro dressed in Ivy clothes and carrying a bag marked “Princeton.”

Saturday, June 2, at 10 a.m. Written and performed by Maria Jerez: A life of Javier Johnson White.”

If not catch the Picturing Protest exhibition at the Art Museum, on view for the next five months. Or on first Mondays at 7 pm at Princeton Public Library, come to Not in Our Town Princeton’s Continuing Conversations on Race and White Privilege. On June 4, you will hear and discuss how racial literacy is taught at Princeton High School.

Alison Isenberg and Aaron Landsman  supervised this project; Landsman coached the students in the dramaturgy of how to tell this story like a play. The first stop: Spelman Apartments, named after Laura Spelman Rockefeller, a philanthropist and abolitionist whose dollars funded the first trial of the summer program for high schoolers said to have had “little hope for college.”IMGP2671

Next stop: the Lewis Center, near where Joseph would have arrived on the Dinky train, from Trenton. Contrast: the Lewis Center cost $180 million. Trenton is trying to build an arts center with $80,000. (Rich Rein quotes Berlin in his cover story in U.S. 1 this week, and here is the Berlin oped complete.

Continuing the ironic comparisons, Berlin stops at Whitman College (actually named after Meg but, for this tour, credited to poet Walt), and we learn that it cost $136 million to build, almost six times more than the city of Trenton’s annual budget. It was designed in ‘fake Gothic,” says Berlin, appropriate, he says, since eBay dotes on nostalgia.IMGP2672

At the next stop we learn, for this tour, that the building labeled Wilson College should really be named after Preston Wilcox, a social scientist and human rights activist who advocated for black history studies.IMGP2674

We leave the summer of 1964 and move to the spring of 1968 and the unrest after the King assassination. At this point Joseph is a sophomore at Lincoln University preparing to go to seminary. The police shot Joseph as a looter but all those who knew him deny that he would have done that. He was the only person who died in those riots.  We hear from the eulogy by beloved pastor G. Carter Woodson: “We are responsible for the conditions that allow riots to take place.”

More memories:

The boys of that 1964 summer were turned away from a Princeton barbershop. They wrote a letter to Town Topics in protest.

In their class they debated about that summer’s police brutality in Harlem. .

We share Joseph’s letter about his aspirations to be a minister. The letter was printed on cards, and we passed them around, reading it sentence by sentence: “I have the foundation and tools to be an effective minister, and I strive to help those who are discriminated against…Keep on trying. In every group there will be some listening to what you are saying.”

Was Harlan Bruce Joseph a looter? Or a dreamer?   We are asked to imagine that his statue has been erected “over there.”

 

OTC-TTClass_torn-01

 

 

 

Advertisements

Calling White Evangelicals to Stand Against Racism

niot banner

Ten days before the national observance of the Stand Against Racism day, a leader of evangelical Christians sent a wakeup call to conservative Christians everywhere: Mark Labberton, president of Fuller Theological Seminary addressed  leaders gathered at Wheaton College (Illinois). In multi-faceted, far-reaching remarks, he defined white supremacy and attributed it to Christian leaders past and current.  

To get details on YWCA Princeton’s plans for Stand Against Racism day, click here. 

To read his address, “Political Dealing, the Crisis of Evangelicalism,”  click here.  Main points: 

This is not a crisis imposed from outside the household of faith, but from within.

This is not a crisis taking place at the level of language.

This is not a crisis unfolding at the level of group allegiance, denomination, or affiliation.

This is not a recent crisis but a historic one. . .”Right alongside the rich history of gospel faithfulness that evangelicalism has affirmed, there lies a destructive complicity with dominant cultural and racial power. Despite deep gospel confidence and rhetoric, evangelicalism has been long-wedded to a devastating social self-interest that defends the dominant culture over and against that of the gospel’s command to love the “other” as ourselves. . .

First is the issue of power.  …”The apparent evangelical alignment with the use of power that seeks dominance, control, supremacy, and victory over compassion and justice associates Jesus with the strategies of Caesar, not with the good news of the gospel.,,

Second is the issue of race. …”White history narrates the story of America’s heroes, and white evangelical history views those “good guys” as the providence of a good and faithful God.  When some white evangelicals triumphantly pronounce that we now have “the best president the religious right ever had,” the crisis it underscores to millions of people of color is not an indictment of our President as much as it is an indictment of white evangelicalism and a racist gospel…

Third is the issue of nationalism. …”For white evangelicals to embrace a platform and advocacy that promotes, prioritizes, and defends America above all and over all is to embrace an idolatry that has only ever proven disastrous…

Fourth is the issue of economics.  …”When white evangelicals in prominent and wealthy places speak about what is fair and beneficial for society, but then pass laws and tax changes that create more national indebtedness and elevate the top 1% even higher—while cutting services and provisions for children, the disabled, and the poor that are castigated as disgusting “entitlements”—one has to ask how this is reconciled with being followers of Jesus…

Labberton hopes that evangelicals can change their racist views and cites Matthew 28, the account of the Great Commission. “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” Labberton points out that Jesus gave the Great Commission even to those who doubted, those who might have been considered unworthy. “So perhaps he can also still use American evangelicals as well.”

Though I  personally focus on trying to help the people of this world come to know their God better — and some say that is evangelizing — I oppose the rigid beliefs of evangelical theology. Nevertheless I applaud Labberton’s urging the conservative Christian community to study its responsibility for white supremacy, definable as “a system which manipulates and pits all races and ethnicities against each other.”

The organization I support, Not in Our Town Princeton, aims to identify and expose the political, economic, and cultural systems which have enabled white supremacy to flourish. We are trying to create new structures and policies which will ensure equity and inclusion for all.  

As NIOT Princeton’s website says, “listen to your heart, figure out whether you can contribute time, talent, tithe, or some combination of all three, and then STEP UP! And tell all your friends how your commitment to racial justice is reflected in your calendar, your checkbook, and your conversations. The website offers resources, one place to begin. 

Or come to the rally this Friday. 

 

 

 

 

Suspension? or Restorative Justice

lecture2

Guest post by Eileen Sinett for the website Not in Our Town Princeton. 

On April 12, 2018, at John Witherspoon Middle School, Dr. Anne Gregory of Rutgers University shared her research on restorative justice.  Restorative justice is an alternative method of treating students who are perceived to be defiant, disrespectful, and insubordinate. Instead of punishment in the form of suspension, restorative justice focuses on social and emotional learning as an attempt to improve and correct student behavior.  Rather than “exiling” a student through suspension, restorative justice helps students understand their thoughts and behavior, the harm it may cost others, and the healing that’s necessary to remain in school and to learn. The students confront their mistakes, are held accountable and are more likely to remain in school to graduate.

Dr. Gregory shared data showing that students with repeated suspensions are 20% less likely to graduate from high school or go to college and 3 times more likely to get in trouble with the police. Traditional disciplinary methods involving suspension and other punitive measures tend to support the “school to prison pipeline.”

The two groups most at risk for repeated school suspension are Black males and students with disabilities, both male and female.  In one study, teachers were asked to observe a video of a preschool class and determine which children were more likely become troublemakers.  The teachers wore glasses with eye-tracking software, allowing researchers to track eye movements.  The study showed that the observers tracked Black children more than White children, even though no disruptive behavior was demonstrated by any of the children. The experiment revealed implicit racial bias on the part of the teacher/observers.

There is evidence that restorative justice programs are helping students stay in school and become more active and engaged learners.  Developing social awareness, relationship skills, responsible decision-making, self-awareness (including implicit bias), and self-management (regulating emotions) for both staff and students are keys to the success of restorative justice.

Interventions involve Community Building Circles, where students and staff share vulnerabilities and have their voice heard. More intensive interventions involve restorative dialogue and re-entry circles. The goals are similar, to build trust and community, be supported emotionally and socially, make informed decisions, stay in the school system, and become better students.

Like all new initiatives, restorative justice programs have their problems. However, having committed leadership, staff training and prioritizing relationships over rules, and self-management over suspension are critical to success.

Reported by Eileen Sinett for the website Not in Our Town Princeton. 

Jammin’ on Palmer Square

Guest post from Colleen Miller (thank you, Colleen!) 

Princetonians taking a stroll in the warmer weather in April might notice some unusual activity on Palmer Square. A swarm of volunteers and artists have descended on an empty storefront at 19 Hulfish Street, taking a ‘blank canvas’ of a retail shop and transforming it into an amazing, eclectic art gallery filled with a myriad of life and color.

The short-term pop-up art gallery – called ArtJam 2018 –  brings together professional artists, undiscovered artists who have experienced homelessness, and the community at large.

As a volunteer, I visited this week during gallery set up, and I can sincerely say I was “blown away” by the quality and quantity of beautiful art.

But buying cool art is not all ArtJam offers. Purchases of art at the gallery support HomeFront’s ArtSpace – a innovative therapeutic art program. ArtJam provides a double-dip experience. You can feel good twice because you are buying art you love and supporting a cause you can believe in.

Now in its ninth year, ArtJam has grown to over 100 participating artists, from Princeton and beyond. Original works by highly renown artists including Judith Brodsky, Jon Sarkin, Cynthia Groya and Gordon Gund are in the exhibition. Pieces from these professional artists are displayed alongside the works of HomeFront clients who have limited means but enormous talents.

Another cool feature is the “buy from the wall” aspect – when you buy an item, you can take it home immediately. The gallery continues to display a rotating collection of art for sale and will be hosting musicians, demos and meet-and-greets with the artists through April 29.

A wide variety of mediums are included — paintings, pottery, glassworks, jewelry, sculpture, and hand-sewn items from SewingSpace, another HomeFront art program.

Since its founding years ago, HomeFront (https://www.homefrontnj.org/) has worked to end family homelessness in Central New Jersey by breaking the cycle of poverty.  HomeFront has developed a sophisticated network of supportive housing and social services for very low-income families.

ArtSpace  (https://www.homefrontnj.org/artspace) often opens doors to new ways of thinking for HomeFront clients, fostering their creativity, self-esteem, and confidence, and helping to set them on a path to achieve independence.  The artists learn to reveal their voice and feel joy in their accomplishments.  Also offered is experience in entrepreneurial skills, empowering the artists to see value in their work as it is admired and purchased by others.  ArtJam is one way for them to exhibit and sell their work.

The ArtJam opening reception on Friday, April 13 is open to the public from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at 19 Hulfish Street, Palmer Square in Princeton.  For a full calendar of ArtJam events, visit:  https://www.homefrontnj.org/artjam/

 ArtJam At A Glance 

Dates: Friday, April 13- Sunday, April 29

Location: 19 Hulfish Street, Palmer Square, Princeton, NJ

Opening Reception: Friday, April 13, 5-9 pm

Gallery Hours:  Monday through Wednesday, 12 noon to 6 p.m.; Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.to 8:30 p.m.; Sunday, 12 noon to 5 p.m.

  ArtJam, April 13 -29 will feature works of over 100 artists. Proceeds will help support the artists and ArtSpace programs.

Telling your story

 

330px-Millais_Boyhood_of_Raleigh

We all have a story to tell but sometimes we need help telling it.

I’m looking forward to a four-session workshop with Eileen Sinett  on Wednesday nights in April. If you want to take your communication skills up a couple of notches, consider joining me at the Four Points of Connection workshop starting April 4. Sinett will also offer a one-day version on May 9.

Honing my speaking skill is a theme for me this year. In January I joined a small group of women at Princeton Theological Seminary for a Women’s Voices workshop with Nancy Lammers Gross.  Half of us weren’t preachers; we all connected with each other as well as with our vocal chords. Lammers Gross repeats it on May 8 and 9.

What’s your story? How do you tell it?

(Illustration from Wikipedia: The Boyhood of Raleigh by Sir John Everett Millais, oil on canvas, 1870. A seafarer tells the young Sir Walter Raleigh and his brother the story of what happened out at sea

Next Continuing Conversation is 4/2/18

20170703_191256

 

Not in Our Town Princeton, a multi-racial, multi-faith group of individuals who stand together for racial justice and inclusive communities, sponsors this monthly series of small group conversations on first Mondays. 

It’s at the Princeton Public Library, and everyone is welcome to attend.

 

NIOT Princeton

20170703_191256

As many of you know, NOT IN OUR TOWN PRINCETON is a multi-racial, multi-faith group of individuals who stand together for racial justice and inclusive communities. Our focus is to promote the equitable treatment of all, and to uncover and confront white supremacy — a system which manipulates and pits all races and ethnicities against each other.

Our goal is to identify and expose the political, economic, and cultural systems which have enabled white supremacy to flourish, and to create new structures and policies which will ensure equity and inclusion for all. In our commitment to uncovering the blight of white supremacy on our humanity, we take responsibility to address it and eliminate it in all its forms through intentional action, starting with ourselves and our communities.

Our next general meeting, one in a long monthly series entitled “Continuing Conversations on Race & White Privilege” – is slated to take place in…

View original post 77 more words

White Supremacy Revisited

On Monday, March 5th, Not In Our Town Princeton will meet in the Princeton Public Library’s Community Room at 7pm for Continuing Conversations on Race and White Privilege. We will address the following topic:

What is white supremacy? Is it limited to outrageous acts or is it something more?  March’s Continuing Conversation will look at an expanded definition of the phrase as well as Not in Our Town’s revised mission statement.

For more information, click here. 

Ladies still lunch – and why!

present-day-ballroom-luncheon-group-photo-1024x768.jpg Validating ladies who lunch: this article in the Princeton Echo about The Present Day Club, depicted by E.E. Whiting, telling how for 120 years it has “consistently met the needs of an ever changing society.”

Are we ladies who lunch? Damn straight we are. We are also women who think, innovate, challenge, participate, and achieve. And we do this all together in that stately home on Stockton Street.

Who is ready for what racial justice conversation?

Tool box single icon.The United Methodist Church provides  this very useful toolkit, applicable to any group. In my experience, most groups of white people in Princeton are in the introductory category. Those who gather at Not in Our Town’s Continuing Conversations at the Princeton Public Library are in the ‘What’s Next” or “Veteran” categories.
Where do you belong? Excerpts below 
The resources below are offered to provide tangible and meaningful learning engagements for individuals and small groups. They are for both laity and clergy and can be used contextually in church, church and community conversations, individual reflection, or sermon preparation. They are separated by “entry-point” groups. Read the descriptions for each category to determine the best fit for where you are entering into the work of racial justice and equity right now. 
 

INTRODUCTORY: For preachers and/or churches who are just entering into the work of racial justice and equity. Beliefs about racial injustice or terror have not been preached from the pulpit. The term “white supremacy” describes only the acts of “fringe groups” like the KKK, cross-burning, or lynching but not associated with historic or contemporary Christianity. The events of Charlottesville were shocking because it was believed that “we were past that” or “we didn’t realize those fringe groups were still around.”


WHAT’S NEXT? 
For pastors and/or churches who are able to define “white privilege,” “systemic racism,” and “anti-racism.” Beliefs about racial injustice or terror have been preached from the pulpit and many people will have also participated in intercultural competency or anti-racism workshops. The term “white supremacy” describes both acts of the KKK and white nationalist groups as well as systemic racism that benefits those who are racialized as white. The events of Charlottesville were shocking because it was believed that radical white supremacist groups were not “part of our neighborhoods and churches.” Statements like, “go home” and “we won’t put up with that here” were used to separate everyday acts of white supremacy or the “people who would attend the rally” from who “we” are.
    • Many people have been shocked by the events of Charlottesville. What is more difficult is for some is to connect the events of Charlottesville with white privilege or systemic racism. What was most shocking to you about the events in Charlottesville? Why were they shocking for you? Create a list with the connections between white privilege and the events of Charlottesville. Reflect and discuss.
    • Many people consider Charlottesville a “one-off” event. Some consider it an event which also sparked responses such as those occurring the next weekend in Texas, California, and Massachusetts. Google the “response events” and discuss the similarities and differences between them. Now consider how Charlottesville is connected to other events/decisions based in white supremacy and systemic racism. After reflecting and discussing the connections in “society out there” consider seriously the connections in “the church right here.”
    • Many of the events of Charlottesville were captured on video, many were not. Share anything you have heard from those who were at Charlottesville (either that you heard in person or read a witness account) that were not captured on video. What are the similarities and differences of what was publicized widely and what wasn’t? Reflect and discuss the “both sides” argument that indicates fault/blame on both protestors (those who were protesting the removal of the confederate statue) and counter-protestors (those who were protesting against the “Unite the Right” rally). What evidence are you using? Why?
    • Now that you have seen the events that occurred in Charlottesville, what does it mean for you/your church/sermons to bear witness to them? What evidence will you use?
  • Baptism and Call to Justice
    • Many of the UMC Bishops in their statements and UMC preachers in their sermons responded to the events of Charlottesville with a call to remember our baptismal vows. This resource provides a step by step reflection and engagement of the UMC baptismal vows as it relates to anti-racism. After reviewing the vows which can be found in the the United Methodist Hymnal, what concrete, specific, actionable, and measurable steps will you/your small group/your church take to enact our baptism in the fight against white supremacy and racism in all of its forms?
  • Wait… That’s Privilege?
    • Depending on how much work you/your group/your church has done with privilege (racial, economic, gender, etc) consider adding or substituting the following questions in the “post quiz questions for consideration:”
    • Compare the protests in Ferguson and counter-protests Charlottesville. Make a list of the similarities and differences. How does race influence these similarities or differences? How, if at all, did racial privilege affect safety, police response, or descriptions of the events?
    • Name your own privileges in your own words. How will you use your privileges to do the work of dismantling and defeating white supremacy and racism in all of its forms? Name those actions specific to that work IN the church.
  • The Rev. Dr. William Barber, Disciples of Christ pastor and architect of the Moral Movement, offers a succinct, historical, and powerful overview of ways to situate white supremacy within the larger American context as well as provide a roadmap for future action here. After watching the video, reflect on and discuss the following Individual or Small Group Questions:
    • What does Dr. Barber say is the difference between denouncing Charlottesville and denouncing white supremacy?
    • What does Dr. Barber say is the difference between and the usefulness of addressing the “statues” and the “statutes” of white supremacy?
    • How does Dr. Barber refute the claim of “I am not a racist” when only based on someone having a Black or Brown friend?
    • Barber mentions the names of many Civil Rights sheroes and heroes who have died and empowers us to consider ourselves their children who will continue the fight today. Name 3 Civil Rights ancestors whose legacy you will connect with and continue. (For white people, it is imperative to name at least 1 white person active in the work of Civil Rights with whom you can claim affinity.)
    • What specific actions will your church take within the next week and the next month to engage in some of the specific action items that Dr. Barber suggests in fighting white supremacy?


VETERAN (
What Else Can We Say/Do): For preachers and/or churches who have been doing the work of anti-racism for a long time in multiple arenas: from the pulpit, attending and offering workshops, activism, changing structures and policies within the local and/or connectional church to ensure racial justice and equity. The term “white supremacy” describes both acts of the KKK and white nationalist groups as well as systemic racism that benefits those who are racialized as white. The events of Charlottesville were shocking because the rally was in broad daylight and the Klan no longer wore hoods. The connections between the expressions of white supremacy at Charlottesville and the day-to-day expressions of white supremacy are historic, deep, and entrenched. This group might have difficulty figuring out “what else” to say or be and is burnt out from what Rev. Dr. Teresa Fry Brown calls “Justice Fatigue” that they need care themselves.

  • Listening in Diversity: Different Ways of Thinking about Tolerance
    • First go through the learning engagement as it is. Then add the following questions:
      • What is the difference between tolerance and understanding someone who thinks differently than you, according to the resource? Consider whether you “tolerate” or are in “community with” people who have different perspectives about Charlottesville. What would it take for you/your church to do more than “tolerate” a person who has a different perspective on taking down confederate statues, the right to hold rallies and the right to free speech, or Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter?
      • Consider the Tolerance Paradox attributed to Karl Popper in 1945 which states that tolerance cannot tolerate intolerance because the first thing intolerance does is to eradicate tolerance. Read that statement again. Reflect and discuss your thoughts about this. Do you think tolerance (in the sense of allowing for multiple perspectives to be valid even when people don’t agree upon them) is ever “allowed” have intolerance for anything? In other words, does intolerance of intolerance make us tolerant or intolerant? If not – how does our Christian faith help us to draw the line in faithful places?
  • The Trouble with Conformity
    • Add or substitute the following questions in light of the events at Charlottesville.
    • Consider the statement, “Resistance to oppression requires creativity.” What aspects of your faith help to create spaces for and defend creativity? How has conformity to Christian doctrine or traditions helped to assist oppression and oppressive systems? What does it mean to “be the Church” in light of Charlottesville?
    • Some Christians would not participate in the non-violent counter-protest organized by Congregate Charlottesville (or in the taking down of confederate statues before laws were changed) because they did not agree with participating in civil-disobedience. Some Christians denounce the acts of the “Antifa” because, while the “Antifa” are committed to non-violence as a default, they are not opposed to using violence to defend themselves or others in response to physical violence. How do you discern where the line is between conformity and creativity in the work of anti-racism or destroying white supremacy?

LONG-TERM ACTIVISM (When Those in the Fight Need Care): 
Sermons with discussion questions – especially for those who are burnt out from years of anti-racism activism and work and/or are “sick and tired of being sick and tired” (Fannie Lou Hamer).
  • Jesus, Justice Fatigue, and Why Being Black is Exhausting
  • All the Charlestons: We Press On for Justice
  • Further reflection and discussion questions after watching these videos:
    • How did you respond to the events of Charlottesville? If you were there, describe your participation and perspective. Reflect and discuss how your previous work in anti-racism affected your response (in whatever form including internal responses and not actively engaging in public response) to Charlottesville.
    • If you are a person who is directly targeted by the oppression and terror of white supremacy – how did you (are you) seek/ing care for yourself since Charlottesville?
      • What do you do individually?
      • What do you do (or not do) in different communities in which you participate?
      • How does your faith or the examples of your faith-filled sheroes and heroes inform your regimen of self-care?
      • Do you ever feel guilty for needing or participating in self-care? What aspects of your faith or examples from others might help alleviate your guilt for taking the time for self-care?
    • If you are burnt out right now – how would you like others to support you?
    • How might the work of multi-racial coalitions doing the work of anti-oppression together create spaces for self-care even in the midst of the ongoing struggle for liberation and safety for all? How much time will you protect for yourself before working to create or participate in a multi-racial, intersectional, anti-oppression coalition?