SJM Newsletter   March 2017
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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.

Upcoming Events

April 20 Meeting

As you know, monthly SJM membership meetings alternate between business meetings like the one we held in February, and internal education meetings where members gather together  to learn. The April education meeting will be held at 7:30pm on Thursday, April 20 at the JCC. Michael Zito will facilitate.

The JCC,  which is graciously providing the space, asks that SJM provide a list of  attendees, so they can check off our names at the door.
IMPORTANT: Please pre-register by e-mailing:

We will make sure to get the list to them so they can adhere to their security procedures.

The JCC address is 1391 Martine Avenue in Scotch Plains. There is parking in the back of the building.


Voices from the Margins Still Going Strong, We Welcome You to Join Us

SJM is a grant partner in Voices from the Margin: Connecting our Stories, a series of  programs which began in October at Scotch Plains Public Library and will culminate with the Community Juneteenth program at Willow Grove Presbyterian Church.  Partnering with SJM  are Scotch Plains Public Library and Chhange (Center for Holocaust, Human Rights & Genocide Education at Brookdale Community College).

Participants read and discuss books, tour art exhibits and view films. The ways that these works portray belonging and otherness, as well as community and isolation guide and broaden our view of the American Experience.

Our small group, which ranges from 5 to 20 people, is making thoughtful connections with the books, with history and with each other. Our scholar-facilitator is SJM member Dr. Linda Caldwell Epps. She has guided most of our discussions. We have had visiting scholars lead the group as well.
Voices from the Margins' goal is to move our community closer to recognition of our commonality even as we respect our differences.  Join us to make Voices a springboard to ongoing engagement and discourse.


Coming Up:

-Copies of books are available to Voices participants-
Monday, March 27, 6:30pm, Scotch Plains Public Library
Marginalization and Genocide—Armenia.
 Discussion of  Black Dog of Fate, by Peter BalakianFacilitators: Nelly Segal, PhD. and Adrienne Haroutunian McOmber, Esq.,  co-editors of Chhange’s, Hundred-Year Legacy of Courage.

Read a review:
Monday, April 3, 6:30pm, Scotch Plains Public Library
Viewing of Lark Farm, a feature film about the Armenian Genocide, based on the novel, Skylark Farm. Read a review of the film:
Saturday, April 22, 2:00pm, Scotch Plains Public Library
Exhibit Opening and Reception for Chhange’s A Journey to Life—Armenia
Sunday, April 30, 1:00pm, Scotch Plains Public LibraryE.
Panel Discussion by Genocide survivors and descendants.  Panelists will be:
  • Lucille Bills, daughter of survivors of the Armenian Genocide
  • Eugenie Mukeshimana, survivor of the Rwandan Genocide
  • Clare Boren, survivor of the Holocaust
The panelists will speak briefly about the genocides, and focus will then be brought to their experiences adjusting to life in America, and questions of identity, family, connection and disassociation. 
Monday, June 5, 6:30pm, Scotch Plains Public Library
Discussion of Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche. Facilitator: Linda Caldwell Epps.
(Read a review:
Monday, June 19, Willow Grove Presbyterian Church, Scotch Plains
Community Juneteenth Celebration. Music, history and fellowship. All ages. Details forthcoming.
Interested in finding out more? Call Pam Brooks at (908) 322-5007, x.204, or join the group by dropping by the library to pick up a copy of the book we will be discussing next.
Want to read what we’ve read so far? Copies are available for new discussion participants and all MURAL cardholders:
The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
Disgraced, by Ayad Akhtar
LaRose, by Louise Erdrich
All Me, a film
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz
Maus I and II, by Art Spiegelman
The series was made possible by a grant from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in these programs do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the New Jersey Council for the Humanities.
Funding has also been provided by The Friends of the Scotch Plains Public Library and by Investors Savings Foundation for the Community Juneteenth festivities.

- - Pamela Brooks

Recent Developments

Bryan Stevenson Maps Steps
to Achieving Justice

Nationally acclaimed author and lawyer Bryan Stevenson was a guest speaker at Montclair Kimberly Academy School on March 8, focusing on his public-interest legal work and his book, Just Mercy.
He is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, which describes its mission as “defending the poor, the wrongly condemned, and those trapped in the furthest reaches of our criminal justice system."
One of the points Stevenson addressed during his talk was the path necessary to create justice in the United States. He told many stories in articulating his suggested areas of emphasis. I could never do his stories justice, but the four areas are:
1. We must be "proximate," we need to "get into the weeds" and we need to work closely with the people we serve. For, Stevenson, that is a specific population of people. The takeaway was that it is not enough to talk about social justice or complain about what others are doing (or not doing), but to be engaged in activities that advance the goal.

2. We must change the narrative that sustains injustice. He suggests that we won the legal battles for voting rights and equal education, but we still have the "narrative battle.” As he describes it, “We have the lost the battle of the narrative which demonizes young Black men; the toxic narrative about racial difference.” That narrative caused the genocide of Native Americans, sustained slavery, and created the legacy of terrorism following emancipation.
3. We must remain hopeful. "Injustice prevails where hopelessness prevails."
4. We must do things that may make us uncomfortable. It is not possible to change the narrative without conversation; the conversation about race is a difficult one to have. I note that there is a difference between talking "at" people and engaging in healthy, productive conversations about race. Those conversations need to be had in mixed company, so that mutual understanding can be achieved.
Stevenson ended his talk by saying that we have a legal system that is more concerned about finality than about fairness. We are all challenged to be engaged.
Stevenson has a very motivating TED Talk, and I encourage everyone to watch:
-- Leland McGee

Summit Dialogue Circles

Pam Brooks, Pam Brownstein and Joan Peters have taken part in 3 of 4 two-hour sessions of Dialogue Circles and Ongoing Conversations on Race & Privilege over the last two months. The Dialog Circles are sponsored by the Summit Interfaith Council.  

This program is both educational and conversational. Every session involves multiple readings and/or videos. The readings encourage reflection by participants on their role both as an individual and a part of a group in society and how that affects other individuals and groups. The facilitators for our group, Claudia Cohen and Michelle Fielder, use questions to guide the conversations. Since the goal is to have diversity in the groups, what we hear comes from multiple points of view. 

Topics have included implicit bias, outright bias in housing, white privilege and Jim Crow. As we have talked together, we recognize the weight of the racism still alive and well in the US. Some of these topics are familiar to me but each time I learn something new …did you know that the GI Bill prohibited black GIs from getting FHA loans? Neither did I and that is why I am so glad I took part in this. 

The last but not insignificant advantage for the three of us is the trip home where we assess what we have learned and how to carry those messages into our SJM activities. 

--Joan Peters


More Ways to  Make a Difference

Share a Link

Thank you, Delia McGee, for initiating this feature in last month's newsletter by providing links to action items. This month's link is:
Weekly Action Checklist for Democrats, Independents, and Republicans of Conscience

Spread the Word

Linda Caldwell Epps sent this heads-up:
Joy Reid will be speaking in New Brunswick. If you would like to go you must register. It's free but registration required.

Please pass on to anyone else you feel might be interested. Click on the link to register.


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 to Pam Brownstein and Pam Brooks at this email:

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."

Thank you, We look forward to hearing from you.

Buy SJM Magnets and Clings,
Spread Word of Availability

SJM car magnets ($6 each) and window clings ($4 each) are available to purchase. 

SJM has two versions of the car magnet and window cling. 
The logo is the same on each, but the text is different.

• Magnet/Cling #1:  LOVE - RESPECT - EQUITY . . . It's a neighbor thing!
• Magnet/Cling #2:  There is UNITY . . . In my community!  DIALOGUE - ACTION - CHANGE

Orders may be placed by contacting Phyllis: or 908-232-1716. Then, please mail your check, payable to SJM, to 401A Acacia Road, Scotch Plains, NJ 07076. Include your address and an extra $.50 to cover return postage.  Phyllis will mail your purchase to you.

--Phyllis Brown

SJM’s Monthly TED Talk Recommendation

With this newsletter issue, we inaugurate a feature suggested and curated by a new member, Natasha Brown.
Over the course of time, the recommendations will focus on the wide range of topics related to social justice.

Gary Haugen’s TED Talk entitled “The hidden reason for poverty the world needs to address now” filmed March, 2015 (run time: 22 minutes, 6 seconds)
And thanks to Natasha for coming up with this idea.


A Note on Membership

More than ever, SJM is in a position to strike a chord in our community. Topics we have been discussing since 2009 are front and center on our national agenda and on the radar of our local officials, neighbors, friends and families.
Membership in SJM means active involvement in some aspect of the organization. You don’t have to take on more than you are able, but the expectation is that you will be a participant. We have terrific teams looking at a host of issues, and we are always on the lookout for new ideas. So please raise your hand for something. That’s the only way we can make change happen.
All 2017 membership fees are due by March 31. Please send your check for $25 made out to Social Justice Matters, Inc. to:

P.O. Box 681
Scotch Plains, NJ 07076

Thank you.

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

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Social Justice Matters · P.O. Box 681 · Scotch Plains, NJ 07076 · USA

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