Tag Archives: African American

Black Prophetic Rage in the Age of Ferguson

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“I will not submit to be charged with praying, nor do I accept the righteousness of the some 60 charges laid against those participating in the Moral Monday protests during Ferguson October,” said Reverend Osagyefo Sekou, pleading not guilty last December at Ferguson. “The only signs of Assault, Disorderly Conduct and Disturbance of the Peace I saw that morning clearly came from the garrison of riot police protecting the state citadel from a group of singing, praying, peaceful clergy, seminarians and members of the community.”
He will speak at a conference organized by The Center for Black Church Studies at Princeton Seminary, “Black Prophetic Rage in the Age of Ferguson,” on Tuesday, November 10th at 7 pm in the Theron Room at the Princeton Seminary Library. Yolanda Pierce directs the center. The roster also includes Dr. Brittney Cooper, Ph.D. and Minister Janisha Gabriel, MA, responders, and Candice Benbow, MA, M.Div., Moderator. Yolanda Pierce directs the center.

The North Star: heroism, romance, and treachery

"The North Star":  Jeremiah Trotter stars as Benjamin 'Big Ben' Jones, carrying John Wooten, playing Lewis Stone.
“The North Star”: Jeremiah Trotter stars as Benjamin ‘Big Ben’ Jones, carrying John Wooten, playing Lewis Stone.

One of my tablemates, at the Princeton chamber breakfast featuring Jacque Howard on Wednesday, was Robert Church of the Doughmain Education Fund based in Research Park. He told about a golf tournament on October 19 to raise funds for innovative financial literacy tools for students. He was also excited about a historical film re the slave trade and the Underground Railroad.

Church went to the Kimmel Center premiere of the new North Star film (the old one, made in 1943, was about the Nazi invasion) starring former Philadelphia Eagle Jeremiah Trotter as Benjamin “Big Ben” Jones.

Says Church:

From my point of view, The North Star was a remarkable re-telling of a truly American story that demonstrated what is great about the American spirit.

I found the cinematography was very different from anything that I have ever seen in a film on this particular subject matter. It put the characters front and center with the viewer, making for a very personal experience. Also, Jeremiah Trotter, the former Eagle linebacker had a leading role and gave a warm and impressive performance. I had all to do to keep myself from giving him a big hug when I saw him following the film. 

The North Star will be screened in Newtown, Pennsylvania with tickets available now through September 24th.

In this true story, Big Ben and Moses Hopkins, according to the plot summary, were slaves who escaped from a Virginia plantation and made their way to freedom in Buckingham (Bucks County) Pennsylvania in 1849. They experienced heroism, romance, and treachery. “Big Ben’s 6 foot 10 inch size and a record bounty for his safe return make him the focus of every slave hunter on the east coast. Their journey exposes them to danger and cruelty; however it also exposes them to the unexpected kindness of the people involved in the Underground Railroad. These experiences will change Ben and Moses forever. Upon reaching the relative safety of Mt. Gilead Church on Buckingham Mountain, Ben and Moses get to experience life as free men and cross paths with historical figures such as Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and Joshua Fell.”  Big Ben worked for Fell in Mechanicsville, PA.

When, how, can we see this film in New Jersey?

Ordinary Experts Needed

sidebar stories heartAre you passionate about a cause — neighborhood safety, addiction recovery, affordable education, housing and healthcare, racial equality and relations, veteran issues, incarceration and re-entry, gender issues, economic opportunity, parenting, mental health, gun control, the environment …. And do you have first hand experience with it?

A new nonprofit, Sidebar Stories, invites anyone to a free workshop this Saturday at PUMC. If you sign up, you will be called an “ordinary expert.” You will learn how to own and tell your story in a way that makes sure it will be felt by those who need to know where you’ve been and what you’ve seen.

Founded by a hospice chaplain in Bucks County, Ron King, Sidebar Stories helps people connect real life experience, storytelling and visual art. “We offer a full day workshop for people we call ordinary experts to share a personal story related to a significant social issue that has impacted their life (living on minimum wage, urban violence, disability, race relations, veteran’s issues, affordable housing, etc).” says Ron.

At the end of the workshop, you will have made a 3 frame storyboard that can be published or posted to help advocates for your cause determine policies and provide services. Sign up here for the Sidebar Stories pARTy — it’s free, and lunch is included.

A Native American saying: “It takes a thousand voices to tell a single story.”

Environmental David vs Real Estate Goliath?


Do I have this straight? After decades of trying to develop the former Western Electric site on Carter Road, environmentalists and preservationists in Hopewell (known for their combativeness when it comes to defending rural turf) managed to fend off Berwind Property Group from building high-density housing.

The property, as described by MercerMe.com, is
“the first corporate park ever created in the United States. Built during the Cold War by Western Electric, the 360-acre site included an underground nuclear bunker for the use of the President of the United States and a runway for the President’s plane in the event of a nuclear attack.” Part of this campus has already been developed as Technology Center of Princeton, with Sensors Unlimited its most recent occupant of the largest building, with Worldwater and Lexicon also on the campus. 

Jim Waltman, executive director of the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, had a hand in the deal, which went down in April. Waltman speaks at the Princeton Regional Chamber breakfast on Wednesday, June 17, at 8 am (networking at 7:30) and that’s TOMORROW if you are reading this Tuesday night. Yes, I know, late notice. But you don’t pay extra to be a walk-in — $25 for chamber members and it’s a good breakfast. 

Waltman will surely introduce the new Platinum-Leed-certified environmental center, shown above and designed by Farewell Architects (though not so credited on the Stony Brook website.) But also ask Waltman about how they managed to “do the Carter Road deal.”  His more well-known battle was with Westerly Road Church (now Stone Hill Church) on its development of the Princeton Ridge. I’m guessing he’d answer questions about that too.

February 2 will be Walter Harris Day.  A Princeton Borough police officer, he was shot and killed in the line of duty on February 2, 1946.  Greta Cuyler writes about it for Princeton Patch.

What caught my eye was this paragraph: The grandson of slaves, Walter Harris was born in Princeton and grew up on Jackson Street, which later became Paul Robeson Place. The family’s house was moved to Birch Street when Palmer Square was being developed and the trolley used to run in back of the Harris’ house.

What is now Palmer Square was formerly an a neighborhood of African Americans, many of whom worked at the university.  Those who now live in what is sometimes known as “the Witherspoon neighborhood”  remember the displacement.

Palmer Square is now, indeed, a tremendous asset to Princeton for both tourists and townies. It is a wonderful gathering place. But, as Sheldon Sturges says, it was “an enormous social  justice wound.”

For the Historical Society of Princeton, Shirley Satterfield has put together a wonderful tour of the African American history of Princeton — and anyone can take it, any time, via cellphone.