Tag Archives: Not in Our Town Princeton

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!

 

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.

 

 

A book only teens could write

Two Princeton high schoolers — Winona Guo and Priya Vulchi — have published an important book that helps classroom teachers engage students  in the often difficult to discuss subjects of race and ethnicity. They had help from experts in the field, but because it is chock full of personal stories of children, teenagers, and young adults, it’s a book that only teens could write. The Classroom Index, on sale for $20, will be discussed on Wednesday, December 14 at 6 p.mlabyrinthpanelat Labyrinth Books (122 Nassau St, Princeton)

The 220 pages, with color illustrations, are organized beautifully for teachers — with intros on how to initiate discussion and clever indexes by tags. You can look for stories by identity (Latina,   Asian, African American) or by topic (economic, interpersonal, aesthetic, residential, familial). Teachers can use this trove of stories to bring new layers of meaning for any subject from physics to phys ed.

I found it fascinating for a different reason.With so many different stories from so many different kinds of people, I can be a voyeur. I can find answers to the hard questions that I might be afraid to ask.

If I were to live in a place where everyone looks like me, it would be hard to be friends with someone different. And even those of us who live in a diverse community — maybe we can’t get up the nerve to talk about sensitive topics with someone of a different background.

Some of these stories are raw and pungent. Some poignant. Some funny. The authors put each story in a useful educational context. As here:

“My substitute teacher caught two girls talking to one another. He automatically thought the Hispanic girl was asking for help from the White girl, but it was actually the other way round.” The comment: “Racial stereotypes and prejudice go hand in hand. Disregarding the dimensionality of members of one race and placing them into constrained boxes can cause harmful psychological effects….the number of Hispanics enrolled in two- or four-year college has more than tripled since 1993.” 

The panel will be moderated by the authors,  Winona Guo and Priya Vulchi, co-founders of  CHOOSE.  They are also members of the Not in Our Town Princeton boardDr. Ruha Benjamin, Not in Our Town’s lead racial literacy presenter will be on the panel, and she wrote the introduction. The panel also includes Superintendent of Schools Steve Cochrane, who supported the project. Also former Princeton High School English, History  Supervisor John Anagbo, and Princeton University Associate Dean Khristina Gonzalez

If you can’t go, buy the book to read and then give to a classroom teacher. The Princeton school have purchased many, but I’m betting there aren’t enough to go round. And then ask –is it being used?

New Lens for Racial Literacy

firstSurely Michele Alperin’s superb October 19 cover story in U.S. 1 Newspaper on Ruha Benjamin helped to enhance awareness of the value of Racial Literacy. Benjamin’s first lecture drew an enthusiastic standing-room-only crowd at the Princeton Public Library, and on Tuesday, October 25, at 6:30 p.m. she will facilitate the discussion at the Garden Theatre’s screening of the three-part documentary “Race, the Power of an Illusion.”

This first segment, “The Differences Between Us,” examines the science -including genetics – that challenges the assumption that human beings can be bundled into three or four fundamentally different groups according to their physical traits.

Racial literacy is a much-needed, often neglected skill that — in the 21st century — we all need in order to live and work successfully in a diversifying society. But conversations on race are not easy to have. But as Benjamin said in her lecture,  “Racism doesn’t belong to few bad apples; it is coded in our psyches and institutions. Pretending we don’t see it is not a cure.”

The five-part Racial Literacy series is cosponsored by Not in Our Town Princeton, Princeton Public Library, and the Garden Theatre. It continues with Benjamin’s second lecture at the library on Tuesday, November 1 and film screenings on Monday, November 7 and Tuesday, November 15, all starting at 6:30 p.m. In the coming months, Not in Our Town Princeton will continue its monthly “Continuing Conversations on Race and White Privilege” on first Mondays at 7 p.m. at the library. For details go to niotprinceton.org.For social media, use #Racial Lit and tag partner organizations, @PrincetonPL, #niotprinceton, and @PrincetonGarden

As quoted in Alperin’s article,  Benjamin aims to help people put on a new pair of spectacles and see that “what I’ve learned about this is actually wrong.” Who among us does not need new lenses?

Taxed out, deathed out, rented out

witherspoon jackson

What happens when a house worth $250,000 sits on property worth much more?  It’s a a problem for many aging Princeton residents and a particular dilemma for the historic Witherspoon-Jackson Neighborhood. Residents and experts gathered Saturday, August 13, to discuss it. Some details here. 

The Shoulders They Stand On

The Witherspoon-Jackson Community saluted Floyd Phox along with seniors, Black Families of Princeton, and athletes. Here is my account of the Friday night 8/12 service on the Not in Our Town Princeton website.

On Saturday morning 8/13 a blue ribbon panel of architects and community leaders addressed the dilemma of the gentrification of the Witherspoon Jackson neighborhood. Here are some brief notes on that.

 

Princeton Prizes for Positive Race Relations

Coming to town — a conference based on a national prize that Princeton University awards, aiming to “promote harmony, understanding, and respect among people of different races by identifying and recognizing high school age students whose efforts have had a significant, positive effect on race relations in their schools or communities.” The Princeton Prize Symposium on Race is Friday and Saturday, April 29 and 30. Mickey Faigan, of Issues Management (based at Princeton Overlook) will open the conference on Friday, and the speakers include Michele Tuck-Ponder, who gives a workshop on 90-second elevator speeches. Saturday’s proceedings are open to the public. 2014 4 prize symposiumI’d also like to point out that Not in Our Town Princeton ––  an interracial, interfaith group united to advance the cause of racial justice in Princeton — gives annual Unity Awards to Princeton High School students who have helped to carry out the NIOT Princeton mission statement:  We are committed to speaking truth about “everyday racism” and other forms of prejudice and discrimination. Where there is conflict we promote reconciliation with open, honest engagement and mutual respect. Our goal is that Princeton will grow as a town where everyone is safe and respected.

 

Today and Every Day

sar poster 2015

Have you noticed these posters in storefronts around town? Merchants who support the Stand Against Racism campaign, by putting the signs in the window, are featured in a two-page color spread in Town Topics this week. The ad was sponsored by an anonymous donor to Not in Our Town, an interfaith, interracial group committed to speaking truth about every day racism.

Special thanks to Joy Chen — vice president of the Princeton Merchants Association and proprietor of JoyCards — who designed the poster. And to Lori Rabon of the Nassau Inn, which sponsored the legislative breakfast on Friday.

You can join the Stand Against Racism effort by signing the YWCA’s National Pledge Against Racism 

By contacting Congressional delegates to ask them to pass the End Racial Profiling Act (HR2851)

And by following the Not in Our Town Princeton blog, with its calendar of pertinent events.