SJM Newsletter   November/December
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I'm writing this on December 31 and it's been some year! Tomorrow we all make resolutions to make ourselves, our families, our communities and country better!

After you read the newsletter and see what we are doing, please consider joining Social Justice Matters this year. Make a difference in your communities! 

You can find out how to join under REMINDERS! 

Happy New Year!
Scotch Plains-Fanwood
Tenth Annual Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Day of Service

Once again, Social Justice Matters will sponsor a "Day on, not a day off" to challenge our communities to live up to the legacy of Dr. King.  We hope that every member of our community will be able to spend a moment not only learning about the organizations of our community that work everyday to lift up the visions imagined by Dr. King, but will also take time to build that dream with their own hands.

The opening ceremony will take place at the YMCA on Martine Avenue, beginning at 10am .  Be sure to join the whole community as we come together.  This year, there will be a community choir, the drums of the SPFHS Marching Band, the Y Achievers sharing words from Dr. King, and we will celebrate the recipient of the SPF MLK Day of Service Award.

After January 3rd, event sign up will be live at .  Before that date, there is still room to add events, if you have a project of your own that fits the days ideal.  Social Justice Matters will be sponsoring "Break the Labels" (see below) at the All Saints' Episcopal Church on Park Avenue in Scotch Plains, beginning at 1 pm.

Social Justice Matters' members Delois Dawson and Annie Lucas are members of the Day of Service steering committee and helped to imagine the new format of the opening program.
MLK Day Program  
"Break the Labels -Lifting Up Student Voices"
Following the hateful graffiti painted on the high school this fall, SJM reached out to the three students who published letters in the on-line hyperlocal newslate TAPinto Scotch Plains/Fanwood.  President Leland McGee and Rabbi Abraham met with the three students, along with Dr. Reginald Davenport.  The discussion was deep, mutually respectful, and surprisingly candid.  Much of what brings us to this work is the future that is represented by the next generation and we were not only reassured that brighter things are ahead, but schooled by our next generation.  Working in partnership with the students, we came up with a theme "Break the Labels" and a social media campaign to bring in their peers.  Please join us as part of the Scotch Plains Fanwood MLK Day of Service.  This program will be held at All Saints Episcopal Church on Park Avenue in Scotch Plains and all are welcome.  The working description is below:
Each of us carry several identities.  These identities find their origin in many areas of our lives – race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, political inclinations, physical and cognitive abilities, even documentation status.  These issues of identity can lead to considerable barriers to young people finding their voices and standing as individuals ready to be a part of the greater collective.  Thus asking the question, “Who am I?” can lead to several different answers from each young person in our society.  The influence of social media on self-identity and worth has taken considerable hold and it’s power cannot be ignored.  The family, for centuries, has been the primary source of cultural identity and norms, yet these shifts have our young folks being accused of not being Black, Asian, Jewish, Latino enough.  Labels we all assign to others as well as ourselves. 
Come share your stories with us, as we begin the journey to explore implicit and explicit bias in  our young people.  Help us help them “Break the Labels”

As many members and supporters of our work know, SJM has partnered with the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Association of Westfield on an exciting and forward-thinking initiative, The Community Anti-Racism Community Collaborative (ARCC).
We have received funding from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities and the Westfield Foundation to offer our first set of programs, Dialogue Circles on Race: Facilitated Discussions about Race and Systemic Racism in American Life Today.
The first two Groups (the “Pilot”) will be offered in February-March, 2019.  More Groups will be offered later in the spring of 2019.
We are asking our readers, as proponents of racial equity, to:
  • Consider attending the Pilot Dialogue Circles on Race series, in Scotch Plains and Westfield in February 2019.  Sign-up for the pilots is limited, so do not delay.
  • Speak with people you know who would contribute to and benefit from the Dialogues, and encourage them to sign up and participate along with you.
Registration form:
Questions about Dialogue Circles and the ARCC:
Some background on Dialogue Circles on Race AND WHY WE NEED THEM:
We’re adopting a proven, successful Dialogue model
  • Summit Dialogue Circles on Race is sponsored by the Interfaith Council and the curriculum was developed by the Anti-Racism Committee of the Council.
  • Since 2015, seven semesters were offered, with ~30 groups and more than 300 participants.  Groups of 8-14 are led by two trained co-facilitators; they are ethnically diverse to the extent possible.
  • Groups engage in “Dialogue” rather than “Discussion” or “Debate.”  Relationships form as participants tell their stories and listen to the stories of others.
  • Four years of evaluations from Dialogue participants attest to the power, impact, and life-changing nature of this experience
A reminder of why dialogues amongst us are timely and necessary:
  • The current socio-political climate has made the history, and current state, of structural and individual racism in the U.S. far more visible, e.g., a rash of hateful local graffiti incidents.
  • Black Americans and White Americans for the most part lead lives that intersect in limited ways.
  • Systemic sources of Implicit Bias are better understood than in the past, and findings will be shared through readings and talk
  • Dialogues on Race provide an opportunity to talk about racism, allowing Whites and Blacks to recognize its full effects and potentially change the narrative moving forward.
Sponsored by ARCC, Anti-Racism Community Collaborative
Made possible by funding from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities (NJCH)

You will be hearing a lot more about the Anti-Racism Community Cooperative (ARCC) in the coming months, as Dialogue Circles begin and the ARCC structure is formalized. Here is some basic information:
ARCC is an emerging coalition that arose in partnership between SJM and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Association. This coalition was founded in recognition of the fact that issues of inclusion, equity and approaches to dealing with systemic racism do not begin or end at town borders.  In addition, the coalition underscores that active and dedicated organizations in Westfield and Scotch Plains/Fanwood were created to promote equity and inclusion and to make systemic racism visible.
In creating this partnership, the individual initiatives and programs of each organization will be magnified and reach greater numbers of residents in each community. The goals of the ARCC are: a) to bring together different social justice organizations (within Union County) that work to educate the community about racial injustice and to promote understanding and engagement, in order to magnify their individual programming and initiatives; b) to develop an infrastructure of individuals within our communities, prepared to respond to opportunities, concerns or tensions regarding race and inclusion in partnership with elected officials, the schools and police force, as appropriate; and c) develop specific projects, such as the Dialogue Circles on Race, whose reach and impact will be far greater, when the networks and the human resources of SJM and the MLK Jr. Association work together.
SJM has received a $5,000 Incubation grant from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities and $10,000 from the Westfield Foundation to launch Dialogue Circles and give structure and a public presence to ARCC.
Latest Education Program: “How our Affinity and Confirmation Biases may limit our Social Group Diversity”
On Thursday December 13th, 12 SJM members attended our education program, “How our Affinity and Confirmation Biases may limit our Social Group Diversity”, held at the All Saints Church in Scotch Plains. The intent of this workshop was to help participants understand how our affinity and confirmation biases can limit development of our own diverse social group.
Participants learned how the Affinity bias brings us to affiliate mostly with those who are more like us. First, participants were asked to move around the room to form various sized groups which facilitated self-reflection on how we form our social groups. The participants were also asked to complete an Affinity bias (aka in-group bias) worksheet that asked members to identify the characteristics (race, gender, profession, political views, language, socio-economic, religious views) of people in their trusted circle of friends or mentors. Participants found this very enlightening and thought provoking. In fact, some have emailed me indicating that several days after the program they were still contemplating their trusted circle.
Participants also learned how the confirmatory bias is a strong human tendency to confirm our existing perceptions about people less like us. As a result, we may  limit our socialization with people less like us.  This was addressed through reflective questions and group discussion.
Both of these biases keep our social group more homogenous than diverse. Understanding how to diversify our social groups will help us be more comfortable with diversity and therefore to engage in diversity discussions. At the end of the program, participants made a plan to socialize with another member, who was in attendance, but “unlike them” in some way.  This was intended to improve our group cohesiveness as we continue our mission of promoting diversity, equality and inclusion in the community.
Submitted by Michael Zito

Come join us!
Upcoming Book Club Discussion

In the Shadow of the Statues, our selection for the current book discussion was on Barack Obama's 2018 List of Favorite Books!
Can't get a better recommendation so come and be a part of the discussion (even if you haven't read it).

Y Achievers Career Boot Camp 

The Y Achievers used their early November school vacation days to attend the Discover My Career boot camp.  Students filled out online assessments prior to the boot camp to learn about their personalities and preferences.  Together they used their assessment results to learn which careers align best with their personalities and how to investigate those careers.  Several Achievers said that they valued learning what a network is and how to use it to find more career information and opportunities.  The students also practiced using databases to research skill and education requirements in the real time job marketplace.  Parents attending the boot camp said, “I wish we had this when I was starting out!” The students and parents have continuing access to Discover My Career resources for ongoing career exploration.

Want to learn more about this workshop and how Discover My Career supports young adults through career discovery and planning?  Please contact Donna Gerhauser,, 908-654-7595. Donna is an active SJM Member and volunteer.
Juneteenth Plans
Save the Date!
Social Justice Matters and The Union County Club of The NANBPWC, Inc. will present a Juneteenth Day Program on Wednesday, June 19, 2019.  Place and time will be given at a later date.  Please save the date.  We will have Educational Discussions, Music (Scotch Plains Band & other musical groups), Dance Groups, Great Speakers, Food and Fun.  Please come out and learn more about our HISTORY.

I was introduced to podcasts two years ago and have been hooked ever since. They are easy to access, there is an amazing diversity of topics and they help me to keep walking or cleaning or just finding out something new.
Is that enough to convince you to try it? You can get them on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify and multiple other outlets.
Here are the suggestions for this month:
  •  The Worst Thing We've Ever Done 
From WNYC:
From Apple:
After World War II, Germany and the Allied powers took pains to make sure that its citizens would never forget the country’s dark history. But in America, much of our past remains hidden or rewritten. This week, Brooke visits Montgomery, Alabama, home to The Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, a new museum and memorial created by the Equal Justice Initiative that aim to bring America’s history of segregation and racial terror to the forefront.
  • Let's Talk about Whiteness
The essayist and teacher. “If you can’t talk about something, you can’t think about something.” Opportunity hoarding. “We owe it to other people not to be afraid of them.” Guilt as an impetus to action.

Thank you, Pamela, for submitting this recommendation!
It's that time of year. Please submit your $25 annual dues.

You can use the DONATE button on the website ( for credit cards. Just note DUES in the comment area. OR

You can mail a check to Social Justice Matters,
PO Box 535, Scotch Plains, NJ 07076

Please check out membership requirements on the website. Membership in SJM asks for action as well as dues. If you can't commit to the action, we hope you will continue to support our activities. 

Don't Forget to Use Amazon Smile!

Now you can support SJM every time you shop through - at no extra cost to you.  Instead of logging into your regular account, go to  Once you're there, you will be prompted to select a charitable organization from their list of participating organizations.  Just enter Social Justice Matters into the search engine and you will see it pop up on the list (Social Justice Matters, Inc Scotch Plains).  Once you have selected SJM, you can start shopping!  Every time you go to Amazon, go to and the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of all eligible purchases to SJM.  Tell your friends and family members too!
SJM welcomes article submissions from members. Please email your items as WORD or Google documents (no PDFs, please) or as text within an email message. Send to Joan Peters at
Submissions should avoid partisan politics as much as possible -- as a 501(c) (3) non-profit, SJM must steer clear of political endorsements.  Please use SJM's mission statement as a guide to content:

"Social Justice Matters is committed to exploring the values and opportunities arising from our diverse communities, and to working together to foster equity and challenge racism to achieve greater social justice."
Copyright © 2018 Social Justice Matters, Inc. All rights reserved.

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