“Something’s in the Wind”
John E. Harmon, Sr. | 3/13/2018, 6:49 a.m.
In addition to our agenda and proposed meetings, during my travels across the state there appears to be a heightened interest amongst African American business owners, and elected officials and grassroots community groups in ensuring that the current trajectory in New Jersey change for the better. Further, many are betting New Jersey’s recently elected governor, Phil Murphy is going to make it happen. I will keep you posted.
Recently, the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey (AACCNJ), New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and The African American Cultural & Heritage Parade were recognized by Senator Robert Menendez during his annual “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants,” Black History Month Event. The event was held in Paterson, NJ with the Honorable Ras Baraka, serving as the Keynote Speaker. During his remarks before a standing room only crowd at the St. Luke Baptist Church, he provided the audience with a chronology of the tumultuous journey that blacks have endured in America starting with the 400 years of bondage and free labor provided to the slave trade. He continued by articulating the resoluteness of blacks in America and the multitude of ways, our ancestors and the elders, contributed to make this country great and now is the time for us to receive our equitable share of New Jersey’s economy. Mayor Baraka’s remarks were met with a number of standing ovations, resounding applauses and echoes of encouragement.
The mayor was followed by Ryan Haygood, an Award Recipient and the President of the Institute of Social Justice who shared with the audience why New Jersey must close all Youth Prisons in our states, as well as restore voting rights to those convicted of crimes. In 1844, New Jersey passed a law allowing only white men to vote and denied those convicted of crimes that same right. Presently, Maine and Vermont are the only two states that allow those previously convicted of crimes, as well as those, still incarcerated to vote. This denial of a hard fought right, again by our leaders and elders is a very powerful mechanism, which if reversed, can right a number of societal wrongs.
I am sensing an awakening of African Americans in New Jersey as it relates to being vocal about a number of inequities that exist between African Americans and the mainstream in New Jersey. And what is refreshing, many are taking the appropriate steps to gain the acknowledgement of those that have the wherewithal to bring forth a favorable resolution. African Americans provided 94% of their vote to Governor Phil Murphy and Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver to lead them to victory during the recent election. African Americans in New Jersey and our newly elected administration have high expectations for a better New Jersey. However, the word to my brothers and sisters is to stay woke, focused and fully embrace the words of Frederick Douglass; “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” Although, I believe we have a knowledge of our collective power, the challenge lies in our ability to answer a Call to Action for ourselves and others, and to do what’s necessary to ensure a better tomorrow for our communities. Stay tuned and stay engaged!
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