Category Archives: Faith and Social Justice

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

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

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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

“I am not your Negro’

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I Am  Not Your Negro , an Academy Award-nominated film by Raoul Peck, is an up-to-the-minute examination of race in America through the eyes of James Baldwin. It will be in some theaters on February 3. The trailer  reveals it to be a succinct and powerful summary of a time that some of us lived through but did not experience.

The Garden Theatre notes that major cities get it first, but that it will come here “by the end of the month.” What a great resource!

 

My response to the refugee order

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This T shirt dates from 2014, when the Princeton YWCA held a town-wide outdoor demonstration for Stand Against Racism Day.

How many refugees have been arrested for plotting terrorism? According to this source, THREE.

“Two were not planning an attack on the United States and the plans of the third were barely credible.”

That’s what you reply when you hear someone say “POTUS is trying to protect us.”

What Princeton connection can justify a political rant on this blog?  Today, in protest, I am wearing my T shirt purchased in 2014 for the Princeton YWCA’s Stand Against Racism demonstration. The Princeton YWCA STARTED this national trend. They hosted successful, well-supported demonstrations in 2013, and 2012, 2011 and 2010.

In recent years the YWCA has sometimes refocused its Stand Against Racism commitments, favoring breakfasts for those-in-the-know with discussions facilitated by members of Not in Our Town Princeton.  Last year it co-sponsored a demonstration.

Yes,  breakfast meetings may help individuals delve more deeply into their own feelings and this can help conquer racism. But I suggest that this is the year for the Princeton YWCA to sponsor a more visible demonstration. Here are the first words on its website:

At the YWCA Princeton, we know we must remain bold and iconic in our mission! We continue to eliminate racism…

There will be people who voted for Trump who belong to the Princeton YWCA,  but surely “standing against racism” can be a bipartisan effort.

 

 

Protect our media watchdogs

If you don’t subscribe to the Times of Trenton or the Star Ledger or the Bergen Record or any other newspaper that still has a reporter covering the statehouse, do it now. If you aren’t a member of WHYY, with its newsroom at Newsworks, join now. Support Politico’s New Jersey desk. If you can find an independent online investigative reporter in your community, like Planet Princeton, contribute or advertise. 

You can march, you can write letters to the editor, you can call your legislators, but you can also help protect our democracy by bolstering the budgets of the investigative reporters trying to combat fraud and lies. 

I knew this before but this Wednesday New York Times column italicized my impulse.  David W. Chen, who wrote “In New Jersey, Only a Few Media Watchdogs are Left,” used to be bureau chief for the statehouse desk for the New York Times.

The New York Times no longer has a staff reporter covering New Jersey. The number of reporters at the state house has dwindled from 30 to 7.

John Oliver reminds us that social media and TV news mostly just repackage newspaper stories.

McCarter Theatre has it right. McCarter is running ads on Politico’s media page  

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.NYT photo by Charles Mostoller

Poignant detail #1: The print version of Chen’s article showed two lonely news boxes in downtown Trenton. One was for the Star Ledger, which has coopted the Trenton Times state coverage. The other was for U.S. 1 Newspaper. What?? U.S. 1 covers state politics once in a while, as in this investigative piece,. We cover important issues and the boss sometimes opines in his column, but statehouse reporting — that’s not our mission.

Poignant detail #2: Chen’s ender was a salute to the 87-year-old columnist who uses a typewriter.  A colleague converts with the typed page to a PDF, using her cell phone, and emails it in.