Mission Statement – Not in Our Town is an interracial, interfaith social action group united to advance the cause of racial justice in Princeton.
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 activities and programs promote social justice, economic justice and educational equity for all. Our goal is that Princeton will grow as a town where everyone is safe and respected.
Continuing Conversations on Race–Our program completed its fourth year, again meeting monthly on the first Monday of the month at the Princeton Public Library, except for July-September. Attendance continued to be strong, with an interracial mix averaging about 11 people, although we have groups as large as 18 and 19. Almost always 1-3 new participants from Princeton and surrounding communities joined the group. Members of the advisory board helped facilitate most of the sessions and contributed preview posts to the blog. The advisory board is working out very well. Topics ranged from the Trayvon Martin Case and other current events; to the “N” Word; contemplating “privilege and race–anger and compassion”; rehearsing what to say when you hear a racist remark; asking “Is it easier to talk about class than race?”; The “New Jim Crow,” among others.
“Bullying–Changing the Culture Series”–We held the third event in our series with the Princeton Public Library, January 29, with a program, “Transcending Punishment-A Healing Approach to Bullying. Led by Jane Martin, a local psychotherapist, and facilitators skilled in the process of “non-violent communication.” Nearly 70 people attended, including students from the Middle School’s Latinos en Progreso group; Princeton police officers; and both principals from the Middle and High Schools. We also involved students from the GAIA program at Princeton High School.
We began meeting with members of the newly consolidated Princeton Police Department to plan a Spring 2014 program that would also be a collaboration with the schools and Corner house on the issues of cyberbullying as well as community responses to bullying.
Unity Awards–Always a highlight of the year, the ceremony and reception were held on May 13 at Princeton University’s Carl Fields Center. W honored Jackie Adebayo, Sam Nelson, and Juan Polanco of Princeton High School and Joanne Adebayo and Luis Estrada of John Witherspoon Middle School. Again the house was filled with our honorees’ family and friends, staff of their schools, and community officials including Mayor Lempert. Mr. Jim Floyd, former mayor of Princeton Township, also attended and offered to subsidize our graduating seniors’ college textbook bills. We gave each of our awardees $25 Labyrinth Books gift certificates and $50 cash, in addition to framed Unity Award certificates. NiOT members also made presentations at the Princeton High School and JWMS award days.
Princeton Public Library: As above
Princeton YWCA Stand Against Racism Day, April 26: We joined with the Human Services Department for their event held on Hinds Plaza and provided a musical soloist for the program as well as an interactive exercise on white privilege.
Princeton Recreation and Police Departments Community Night Out, August 6–We brought over 200 community members to our booth with our “wheel of fortune” and our newly minted book marks, inspirational bracelets, and diversity materials.
Human Services and Town Council Liaisons–Both Elisa Neira, Executive Director of Human Services, and Heather Howard, member of Town Council and Police Commissioner, joined us at meetings where we had extensive discussions about their roles and how we could be of support. To further these relationships, Ann is our liaison with Heather, and Larry will connect with Elisa.
Ending New Jim Crown Campaign, Princeton Chapter –We continue to support the efforts of this movement to end inequalities in our justice system. We helped get the word out about the READ-OUT event held in April, as well as other programs, in addition to the involvement of individual members and our congregations in participating in the educational, legislative, advocacy, and other ameliorative work of the campaign. This has also included speakers and panels sponsored by our congregations. Rosemary Parish, NiOT representative of Trinity Church, continues as chair of the Princeton Chapter.
National Not In Our Town– We personally met with the executive producer of the national Not In Our Town organization, Patrice O’Neil, to discuss the possibility of our becoming one of their 30 “anchor communities” which would mean developing a project that could demonstrate “how change takes place at the local level, particularly focusing on a sustainable way to respond to hate crimes.” Considering the scope of an intended project as well as its primary focus, we felt that it would not be appropriate nor feasible for us at this time. However, we continue to use the resources available through the national organization, and meeting with Patrice was helpful in focusing on some possible projects.
Avalon Bay Development–Our letter promoting more equal integration of the affordable housing units into the Avalon Bay development appeared in the Times of Trenton (edited version) and the Town Topics. Ann read our Town Topics letter at a Town Council meeting. http://www.towntopics.com/wordpress/2013/06/12/residents-speaking-for-not-in-our-town-address-issues-about-the-avalonbay-plan/
League of Women Voters Municipal Council and Board of Education Candidate Nights–We submitted questions to both forums. The Council question centered on what kinds of opportunitites for constructive engagement that would bring diverse communities together (citing Community Night Out and Continuing Conversations as examples); and the Board of Education question related to the Pre-K program and continuing support for its students.
Boro Council Role in Princeton Police Administration–Ann represented us at the Council meeting addressing the question whether the state mandated appropriate authority over police maters should be the Administrator or the Mayor and Council. We supported the Mayor and Council role.
Honor to Superintendent Judy Wilson–Upon her retirement we gave Judy Wilson a Unity Award in appreciation for her commitment and actions to support the closing of the achievement gap and to give all students a strong foundation.
Hinds Plaza Gate Donation–We contributed $100 to support the creation of the gates in memory of Albert Hinds, the longtime African American community activist.
NiOT Internal Business:
Membership and Meeting Day–All Saints’ Episcopal Church and Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church joined this year, with representatives Doris Tazelaar and Megan Thomas from All Saints’ and longtime NiOT supporter, Shirley Satterfield from Witherspoon. Our congregational membership at the end of the year stood at: All Saints’; Nassau Christian Center; Nassau Presbyterian; Princeton Friends Meeting; The Jewish Center; Trinity Church; Unitarian Universalists of Princeton; United Methodist; Witherspoon Street Presbyterian. We changed our regular meeting day to the third Monday of the month, from the second, in the hopes that this would allow other representatives to join us.
Social Media and Promotional Material–Thanks to Nancy, and Phil Unetic, a graphic designer who has been very generous with his services, we created a book mark that features information on our Continuing Conversations program and our mission statement.
A summary of blog activity: The NIOTPrinceton blog had 88 posts last year compared to 82 in 2012. Over a 5.5 year period it has had nearly 30,000 page views. But fewer people read the blog in 2013 than in 2012. Most-read months were October and November, with nearly 900 page views for each. This is considerably less than April 2012 (when we did the library program involving students) with 1,322 page views.
We worked with two volunteers on a website but that remained on hold at the end of the year.
Non-Profit Status–We reapplied for our 501 (c) (3) status and were told that it would probably be the middle of 2014 when it would be finalized.