SJM Newsletter    January 2017
View this email in your browser

Monthly News

We want YOU to stay involved! Each month you will receive an email with upcoming events and a recap of events from the previous month, so you can stay in the loop on our progress as we work toward the dismantling of racial injustices in our community.


Social Justice Institute CEO To Speak
On Voting Rights Act During MLK Day


The Voting Rights Act of 1965 represented a milestone for millions of Americans, yet it has remained under attack through the years.  As the featured speaker at the Martin Luther King Day of Service on Jan. 16, Ryan P. Haygood, president and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, will focus on the voting law’s roots and its legacy.  His presentation will be given at 1 p.m. at the Scotch Plains Public Library, which is co-sponsoring the event with SJM.


Haygood is one of the nation’s leading civil rights lawyers. Before joining the Institute, he was deputy director of litigation at the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund Inc.

The Institute works to empower urban residents to realize and achieve their potential. It uses a range of tools – including research, public education, grassroots organizing, communications, pilot programs, legislative strategies and litigation – to tackle structural inequality. 


 To register for Haygood’s talk, go to or

SJM’s MLK Day of Service Event Schedule for Jan. 16
  • We have a series of informative events planned. Please show up to volunteer for and attend the following SJM-sponsored events. Register your intent to volunteer or attend at
10-10:45 am
SJM hosts a table during opening ceremonies at the YMCA.
SPFHS Black Student Union Teen Talk: An Open Discussion on Race and Race Relations
This discussion, at the Scotch Plains Public Library, will be led by officers and members of the Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School Black Student Union (BSU). A short video prepared by BSU members and friends will be shared before the discussion.
Noon-6 pm
Take a Break To Support Social Justice
Mara’s Café and Bakery in Fanwood will donate 10 percent of its sales from noon to 6 pm to SJM to help sponsor our “Juneteenth community celebration.” “Juneteenth” has become the most popular annual celebration of African American emancipation from slavery. It commemorates June 19, 1865 when the news finally reached Texas, two-and-a-half years after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
SJM members and the Scotch Plains Public Library's “Voices from the Margins” book discussion participants will organize the June 19, 2017 activities. All members of the community are invited to be part of a day filled with music, food and good fellowship.

Become a partner to help ”pay it forward” by going to Mara’s on Jan. 16 for a meal, or a cup of coffee between the designated hours and help ensure a memorable “Juneteenth” at Willow Grove Church, which is generously providing space for the festivities.

1-2:30 pm
The Voting Rights Act: Then and Now

Ryan Haygood, president and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, will speak about critical sections of the Voting Rights Act and its current status. A Q&A and discussion by the audience will follow. The event is co-sponsored by SJM and the Scotch Plains Public Library, where the talk will be given.

Mara’s Devoting Percentage of Profits on MLK Day to SJM

 Mara’s Café and Bakery in Fanwood will give SJM 10 percent of profits it makes between noon and 6 p.m. on MLK Day, Jan. 16.

 Mara’s generous offer stemmed from a meeting in October with SJM President Pam Brooks, Treasurer and Trustee Joan Peters, and Paul O’Loughlin, Mara’s manager. The café and bakery has a reputation for community-oriented programs, such as fundraising opportunities for nonprofits and job-shadowing experiences for people with disabilities.

 Paul also offered space for a table on MLK Day so SJM can distribute materials and/or sell decals to raise our visibility in the community. It is hoped that SJM members, supporters and friends will have a meal, snack or dessert at Mara’s on Jan. 16 during the designated six-hour period.

We thank Mara’s and Paul for this gracious assistance and contribution.


SJM Has a Decal!

The Board of Trustees has selected an SJM decal for use on cars, windows of local businesses and other locations as a way of creating attention to the organization and its mission.

The colorful decal, based on our logo, will be available in window cling and magnet form. The decal was chosen from nine options proposed by Bishop Kelvin Brooks and Phyllis Brown, both SJM members.

The idea originated during the June 29, 2016 SJM business meeting when Kelvin Brooks spoke about the value of a decal. He and Phyllis formed a Marketing Team to pursue the concept.  He then explored ideas for words and phrases and added them in text boxes throughout the SJM logo, with the purpose of giving clarity to the meaning of the main image. Phyllis searched online for printing sources to compare products, services and prices.  

Many thanks to L&B Printing, Inc. of Scotch Plains, which honored prices Phyllis found online. The decals will be available shortly.

The decals will be great to have on hand to spread the word and raise recognition of SJM, and its mission, among the public.


Reports From the Facing Race Conference: Affirmation and Comfort

Pam Brooks, SJM president, and Leland McGee, an SJM founder and board member, submitted these observations from the Facing Race Conference in Atlanta from Nov. 10-12.

 Pam’s Insights:
During this weekend following the election, it was some comfort to be part of a crowd as shell-shocked as I was, people committed to social justice and racial equity, questioning what the election results would mean to the movements we champion, to the nation as a whole, and to those already excluded by systemic racial inequities and targeted by acts of discrimination.

Facing Race is organized by Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation, which characterizes the gathering as “the country’s largest multiracial conference on racial justice.” The Hilton, which served as the conference’s home base, was certainly packed, with 2,000 attendees participating in 50-plus workshops facilitated by 140 presenters! My one complaint is that I had to squeeze through the doors for several workshops I wished to attend.

 The positive takeaway from that minor inconvenience is that we at SJM are not alone! We should take comfort in that fact, work to position ourselves within larger networks and get to know the local groups that share our goals and concerns.

 As a relative newbie to membership in the social justice movement, I did not know what to expect at Facing Race, and decided I would just keep my eyes and ears open and combat my own preconceptions. It has taken me a while to begin processing my experience in this very intense environment.

 Here are a few things I learned about various intersecting movements and myself in the process:

-- For once, I was not surrounded mostly by people who looked like me. There was no more credence or deference given to me as a white person of a certain age (Baby Boomer) and gender (cis woman) than to the other participants, who to my eyes ran the gamut of every race and gender-identification I could imagine, with a definite skew toward millennials. An unsettling, but essential experience for me.

-- I got to listen to leaders in their fields. I heard Michelle Alexander (The New Jim Crow) and Alicia Garza (#BlackLivesMatter) on the same panel on “Multiracial Movements for Black Lives.” Agreement on “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” We need new tools to build a movement that is truly intersectional, that increases room for more people to live together in dignity.

-- When my spirits were ebbing, my hopes for the future were rekindled by the leadership of an amazing group of young people. VOX Teen Communications facilitated a dialog about race that ended with a call to action. These Atlanta-area high school students work together and with adult peers and media professionals to learn investigative reporting and community-building, Check them out at

 The conference was a valuable experience for me. It would be great to have an expanded SJM contingent at the next Facing Race Conference.

Leland’s Insights: 

The Facing Race conference was an affirming experience. The conference occurs every two years. I attended the 2012 conference in Baltimore. Although that workshop format was similar, it was a different experience. First, the workshop selections are so numerous that if they repeated the same sessions, at both conferences, I could not have attended all of them. In fact, there were some changes to the offerings, presumably based on the availability of workshop leaders. For example, in Philadelphia I had the opportunity to meet author Tim Wise during two workshops he moderated/served on. Also, the changes in venues offer different historical and cultural opportunities for exploration.

 I attended four workshops and an impromptu working lunch session with people of faith who talked about how they experience and address issues of injustice and inequity within their faith communities; how they experience workplace issues of injustice that conflict with their faith commitments; and how some faith-based organizations in their communities come together to address injustice. It was interesting to hear similar stories from people in North Dakota and North Carolina, Seattle and Brooklyn. Our work is not centered in urban/suburban metropolitan communities.

 A summary of specific workshops is as follows:

-- During the “In Pursuit of Educational Equity” program, panelists from Minnesota, Brooklyn and the Schott Foundation talked about building healthy living and learning communities. Organizations such as the Alliance for Quality Education, the Foundation for Public Education and Schott’s Healthy Living & Learning Communities work specifically on equity issues in education.

 -- The Center for Social Inclusion serves as a catalyst to help communities promote racially equitable governmental policies, and the Government Alliance on Race and Equity is a national network of governments working to achieve racial equity. The organizations, based in Seattle, conducted a workshop on institutional racism. They gather data to create strategies for equity and assessment of outcomes, and they encourage monitoring of state and local legislative initiatives and the organization of communities around issues of institutional equity. They noted the Boston Racial Justice and Equity Initiative and initiatives of the Florida League of Cities.

 -- A workshop on charter schools was very interesting. The panelists were representatives from Journey for Justice in Chicago and the Advancement Project and two community organizations in Brooklyn and Newark, NJ. The controversy is whether charter schools siphon public funds for what essentially are private schools. There is great concern for the future of, and federal commitment to, public education in the new administration. There are many things to watch for.

 -- In the workshop on “Building an Inside/Out Strategy,” we discussed building equity in government beyond the divisions between cities and the community “divide.” The program looked at the need to support and encourage people to run for office who have equity as a foundation to public/political policy. The strategy is that having someone “on the inside” working with members of the community offers a more coordinated approach to addressing issues of equity in government and the community.

 I came away with many thoughts about how SJM can grow in its social justice work and am comforted that “we are not alone.”


Continuing Dialog With Scotch Plains, Fanwood Police Chiefs

This past year, SJM President Pamela Brooks, VP Joel N. Abraham, and Trustee Leland McGee met with (newly appointed) Scotch Plains Police Chief Ted Conley and Fanwood Police Chief Richard Trigo. 

 Originally, the meetings, arranged by Scotch Plains Town Manager Al Mirabella, were in reaction to an incident of racist and anti-Semitic graffiti at a town park. The conversations developed into an ongoing relationship with both departments, resulting in a meeting with the SJM membership in October. In our ongoing dialogue, the police have shared some of their procedures and limitations, and we have begun to share our concerns about perception and police civilian interactions.

 At the chiefs’ invitation, SJM had a visible presence (in our logo t-shirts) at National Night Out events in both towns, and we have set up channels of communication to be pro-active. Our hope is to continue to build this relationship so that either side can bring up issues of concern to the community. Currently, Rabbi Abraham is serving as police liaison. 


Better Together, a Teen-Senior Program,
Gets an Assist From SJM

 Temple Sholom of Scotch Plains reached out to Social Justice Matters to help with a program known as "Better Together" – an initiative funded by a well-respected foundation in the Jewish community to promote interaction and mutual learning between Jewish teenagers and senior citizens, reflecting Jewish values of honoring the more experienced members of our community. 

 The Temple Sholom iteration involves inviting a cohort of Jewish teenagers and seniors (mainly from the Temple) and a parallel group of African-American teenagers and seniors to learn together about the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, to share the seniors’ experiences and participation in that movement, and to imagine how to bring about the society we envision together.

 The program includes a civil rights tour of Atlanta, Selma and Montgomery for teenagers, as well as a community presentation in May. Through the help of Leland McGee, an SJM founder and trustee, SJM was able to bring in students from the Union County T.E.A.M.S. charter school in Plainfield and the Black Student Union at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School, as well as a cohort of "seasoned" citizens.

 Temple Sholom’s Rabbi Joel Abraham and Leland are co-directing the program with the administrative help of Raphael Kasen. The grant funding is administered by Temple Sholom.

SJM Reaches Out to the Center for the Study of White American Culture

 In an attempt to expand our network, SJM Treasurer Joan Peters contacted Jeff Hitchcock, co-founder of the Center for the Study of White American Culture Inc. The Roselle-based nonprofit is dedicated to creating an anti-racist, multiracial society.

 The 27-year-old center provides single-day, reasonably priced trainings on topics such as “Decentering Whiteness” and “What White People Can Do About Racism.”

 As outlined on its website, the center’s purpose is to understand white American culture to bring about a better comprehension of race in the United States and to work effectively to create just equitable organizations.

 Hitchcock is a tremendous resource. He was very helpful and suggested that SJM check out the Anti-Racist Alliance, which meets in Montclair once a month. SJM President Pam Brooks and Joan plan to do so in the near future. Expect a report in our next newsletter.

Educational Partnerships             

At its annual meeting in 2016, Social Justice Matters made a commitment to support the work of several organizations. One is the YMCA Achievers program, a collaboration between the Y programs in Fanwood-Scotch Plains, Westfield and Plainfield to provide enrichment to students in all of those communities. SJM provides support to that program.
SJM also committed to support the U.C. T.E.A.M.S Charter School in Plainfield. Pam Brooks, Ruby Simmons, and Leland McGee participated in the school's senior exit Interviews. It was an interesting and inspiring experience to listen to graduating seniors make presentations about their high school experience, their college aspirations, and their long-term career plans, all of this to a group of adults that they don't know.
We are also supporting the work of SPFHS Black Students Union (BSU). They will present a program at Scotch Plains Public Library on Martin Luther King Day of Service.
In the name of SJM, Pam Brooks has also supported students from our partner organizations by compiling a list of scholarship opportunities for them. Leland McGee has been facilitating support and enrichment programs such as Rites of Passage and Financial Literacy programs. Pam Brownstein made a presentation on writing a college essay, and SJM members have organized programs on college applications and financial aid for students from YMCA Achievers, UC T.E.A.M.S, and SPFHS Black Students Union.          
Save the Date: March 8
In looking at our SJM calendar, we have a long, empty stretch between MLK Day in January and our Juneteenth Celebration in June. Our goal is hold meaningful events during that period.
So how do you want to fill April and May, at the very least? We are looking for activities and/or events you can put forward and lead. Can’t lead? Bring a friend who can lead with you!
Think about what events or activities interest you. Then, on Wednesday, March 8 at 6:30 pm, we will have a planning meeting where you present an idea and how you can make it happen. To help, the first half hour will be set aside for individual team meetings to review the goals and the status of current activities. Then we’ll get together to see what we can plan.
Thinking caps on!

Social Justice Matters, Inc.

A community organization of Scotch Plains-Fanwood

Contact us at 

Copyright © 2017 Social Justice Matters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list

This email was sent to <<Email Address>>
why did I get this?    unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences
Social Justice Matters · P.O. Box 681 · Scotch Plains, NJ 07076 · USA

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp