By Donald Gilpin
Starting with its Community Kick-Off Reception on Friday evening, August 5, at Studio Hillier on Witherspoon Street and continuing through Sunday, August 14, Joint Effort Safe Streets has something for everybody — with its hub in the Witherspoon-Jackson community and its impact throughout Princeton.
“It’s always good when Joint Effort Safe Streets comes around, because it gives the community a chance to come together for good discussion and camaraderie,” said Princeton Councilman and Witherspoon-Jackson resident Leighton Newlin. “Joint Effort started with the kids and the basketball camp. The recreational part of Safe Streets brings our youth together with fun things to do. Joint Effort has since morphed into discussions and dialogue over critical issues here in Princeton. These forums open up the dialogue. They put topics on the table that are seldom discussed in Princeton with the same kind of focus.”
Highlights of the Joint Effort Witherspoon-Jackson Community Princeton Safe Streets Summer 2022 Programs, which are “Dedicated to the Memory of Our Ancestors,” include reflections on the past of the community and the presentation of awards to individuals, families, churches, and other institutions that have contributed to the rich history of the neighborhood. Also in the spotlight will be commentary from civic leaders and others; a gospel fest, meet and greet gatherings, a community block festival, and other entertainments; a free basketball clinic and the Pete Young Memorial Basketball Games for all ages; and, perhaps most importantly, a series of three discussions on important current concerns, featuring commentators and panelists, leaders in local government, politics, business, public safety, and education.
Joint Effort Safe Streets Founder and Event Coordinator John Bailey emphasized the significance of the Hot Topics discussions, particularly those focusing on the issue of race in Princeton. “It’s important to me that we’re having a conversation about race,” he said. “A lot of people don’t want to have those conversations, but there is a need for us to think deeply about what we’re trying to do.”
He continued, “We’ve had some issues about race over the past couple of years. This is a great opportunity to continue the conversation and put it to rest — no, we won’t be able to put it to rest, but it’s an opportunity to continue the conversation. With all the confusion and chaos currently going on in our society, there’s no way to get around it. I’m hoping a lot of folks in Princeton care enough that they’ll come and be authentic about the conversation.”
The first Hot Topics discussion on the Joint Effort Safe Streets schedule will address the question of “Reparations in New Jersey and Princeton” on Tuesday, August 9 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Princeton Public Library; the second will feature “Real Talk on Race Relations in America, New Jersey, and Princeton” on Thursday, August 11 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church; and the third will confront an array of timely issues, with “Updates on Education, Development, Public Safety, Marijuana, the Neighborhood” and a Candidates Forum on Saturday, August 13 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at First Baptist Church.
Caroline Clark, an attorney and chair of Not In Our Town, will make a presentation on reparations in New Jersey at the first Hot Topic session, followed by a panel discussion featuring attorney and former Princeton Councilman Dwaine Williamson, Newlin, Witherspoon-Jackson Historical and Cultural Society Founder and Director Shirley Satterfield, and Grace McEwen Kimbrough.
Leading the panel discussion on race at the second Hot Topics discussion will be the Rev. Lukata Mjumbe of the Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church, Ted Deutsch of Taft Communications, Kevin Wilkes of the Princeton Design Guild, Tommy Parker of the Princeton Civil Rights Commission, attorney Eric Broadway, and educator Jason Carter.
The third Hot Topics session will include remarks and a fireside chat with Newlin and Princeton Mayor Mark Freda; Hot Topics updates on education in Princeton with Princeton Public Schools Superintendent Carol Kelley and Board of Education President Dafna Kendal discussing “How are we doing with student achievement for students of color?”; development in Princeton with Councilwomen Mia Sacks and Michelle Pirone Lambros discussing “Slow growth, fast growth, measured growth: What’s the deal?”; affordable housing in Princeton led by Newlin; and public safety and civil rights with Parker presiding over the deliberations; followed by a forum featuring candidates in the upcoming November elections for Mercer County Commission, Princeton Council, and the Princeton Board of Education.
In a July 29 phone conversation Newlin also drew special attention to the August 5 recognition of Shirley Satterfield and her contributions to the community in her work with the Witherspoon-Jackson Historical and Cultural Society. He pointed out that on Saturday morning, August 6, at 10 a.m. she’ll be leading a self-guided tour of the community starting at 30 Quarry Street.
Newlin added that part of the tour will provide the opportunity for participants to view pictures of options for the future of Witherspoon Street between Paul Robeson Place and Franklin Avenue. Historic Preservation Commission member Freda Howard has helped to provide photos and templates of possibilities for the future of the district, so that the Witherspoon-Jackson community has input into these plans.
Other 2022 Joint Effort Safe Streets highlights will include an August 10 Arts, Culture, Scholarships, Awards, and Recognition event from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the Arts Council of Princeton with the presentation of numerous awards and scholarships and the keynote address, the Jim Floyd Memorial Lecture, presented by Jennifer Garcon, Princeton University librarian for Modern and Contemporary Special Collections.
Mayor Freda, who will be a featured speaker at several of the Joint Effort events, emphasized the value of the program for the town of Princeton. “At its core it is meant to promote community activities and events to bring our residents together,” he wrote in an email. “The basketball clinics and tournaments have long been an important part of this program. A number of this year’s events also acknowledge the contributions of neighborhood residents to the community.”
For more on times, places, and other information about Joint Effort Safe Streets 2022 and its many events from August 5 to 14, see the Town Topics Calendar; the Princeton Municipal Newsletter, available at princetonnj.gov; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.