In the News

Progressives File Suit to Eliminate the Party ‘line’ on Ballots

Insider NJ reports

In a move they say is designed to return democratic power to the voters of New Jersey and away from politically connected party bosses, a coalition of progressive organizations and candidates has joined a landmark lawsuit to force reforms in New Jersey elections by limiting the influence county party leaders exert in drawing ballots that favor particular candidates.

For decades, New Jersey’s county parties have exercised an iron grip on New Jersey elected officials — from congressperson to state legislator to township councilperson — by wielding control over who gets the coveted “party line” to give these chosen candidates an unfair advantage at the polls.

That practice violates the United States Constitution and must be reformed, according to a lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.

“This antiquated practice is truly indefensible.” said Sue Altman, State Director of New Jersey Working Families, one of the plaintiffs in this lawsuit. “If we learned anything over the last four years, it’s that our democracy is fragile and requires a vigorous effort maintain. This expansive coalition is fighting to make democracy stronger in New Jersey. Up and down the state advocates agree: It is long past time for real, competitive primary elections. Our democracy is at stake, this is a matter of equity and whose voice counts.”

If we want real racial justice, we need to cut through red tape, Lt. Gov says

NJ.com's Tennyson Donyéa reports

After months of protests across the state and country demanding racial equality, New Jersey Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver said Thursday it’s time for state officials to “abandon bureaucratic red tape” and pass more far-reaching racial justice policies.

Oliver, a Democrat, made the remarks at an annual meeting for the New Jersey Institute For Social Justice (NJISJ) Thursday evening, where leaders discussed the institution’s goals for the new legislative session, which began on January 14, and is scheduled to run through late January 2022.

“As a state governmental leader, we’ve got to abandon the old ways of going through bureaucratic kinds of experiences. We’ve got to cut out the red tape, cut out the bureaucracy,” Oliver said. “If you want to get something done, I believe, like Nike says, you just do it.”

At the meeting, which was held on Zoom and attended by some state legislators and members of the public, NJISJ leaders put forth the organization’s 2021 “action agenda” for social justice. The group is one of the most vocal advocacy groups for racial justice causes in the state.

RWJBarnabas Health and Rutgers School of Public Health Lead Pledge Declaring that Racism is a Public Health Crisis

Clara Mass Medical Center Reports

New Brunswick & Newark, NJ – In recognition of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and 402 years of racism in the country, RWJBarnabas Health and the Rutgers School of Public Health join others around the nation to declare that racism is a public health crisis and that Black Lives Matter.

In an effort to ensure a more equitable and just world for Black and brown people, the two organizations developed a call to action in the form of a pledge, which has been adopted by groups that include academia, government, business, and community‐based organizations.

Racism hurts the health of communities by depriving people of the opportunity to attain their highest level of health. It is the fundamental cause of health disparities that are inextricably tied with poverty, inadequate housing, under-resourced and thus, underperforming schools, police brutality, mass incarceration, food deserts, food swamps, unemployment or underemployment, wage disparity, stress, poor access to health care, and violence, all of which are substantial barriers to health equity.

“In order to achieve health equity, eliminate health care disparities, and create more vital communities, we must identify and address racial injustices,” says Perry N. Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health. “We must fearlessly commit to listening, confronting policies, systems, and structures that perpetuate and uphold racism, and holding conversations that lead to actionable change.”

CCOR Celebrates MLK, Announces Street to be Renamed in Memory of Lee Boswell May

TapInto's Madeline Thigpen reports

MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Households across South Orange and Maplewood joined together to light luminaries in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The luminary project was a part of the Community Coalition on Race’s 20th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Observance Day program; this year’s theme was Community in Times of Challenge and Controversy. In past years the Community Coalition on Race (CCOR) held a program at Columbia before inviting attendees outside to participate in the luminary lighting together.

This year the CCOR observed MLK day with a virtual program broadcast on YouTube Live to reflect on the legacy of Dr. King and how the events of 2020 brought racial justice issues to the forefront in South Orange and Maplewood.

“We have seen the power of service and sacrifice in our community like never before,” said Maplewood Mayor Frank McGehee. Highlighting the work that was done throughout SOMA to help out families who were the hardest hit by the pandemic.

“It was and continues to be a racial reckoning that transcends law enforcement and calls us to act upon injustice and discrimination in housing, job opportunities, access to education and even health care as we’ve seen communities of color disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 virus,” said South Orange Village President Sheena Collum.

Ballot drop box placement bill tabled after testimony

NJ Globe's Nikita Biryukov reports

The Senate State Government Committee pulled a bill that would have allowed county election boards to decide the placement of all ballot drop boxes after an advocate voiced concerns that the bill did nothing to prevent unequal placements.

The measure, sponsored by Senate State Government Committee Chairman James Beach (D-Voorhees), would eliminate provisions requiring drop boxes be installed at certain locations, like county clerk offices and colleges campuses, instead allowing election boards to decide drop box placement through a majority vote.

But Henal Patel, director of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice’s Democracy and Justice Program, warned the committee unequal distribution would continue because the bill did not peg drop boxes to population.

“These decisions made by county officials have downsides, and with this, as with so many other issues, the brunt of those decisions are felt by black and other voters of color,” she said. “Notably, the current law does not prevent disparate placement from occurring either.”

She pointed to Newark, the state’s most populous city which last year received just two drop boxes. West Orange, an Essex County town with a little more than one-sixth of Newark’s population, also had two drop boxes.

It does happen here: New Jerseyans say political violence is part of America's history

NorthJersey.com's Hannan Adely reports

When supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol last week, many Americans responded with shock, saying that this kind of unrest doesn’t happen here.

But for many Black and brown Americans, the notion that political violence is foreign to America is simply wrong. From attacks on protests to voter suppression to discriminatory policing, they see political violence as a common feature of U.S. history.  

“Americans say one thing about democracy,” said Nathaniel Briggs, 73, a civil rights activist from Teaneck, reflecting on the Jan. 6 siege. “They write laws and have amendments to the Constitution to create a democracy on paper. They say it, but when it comes to my rights to be a human being, they say another thing.”

American history is littered with examples of intimidation and violence to suppress minorities’ struggles for democratic rights, including mob rampages against abolitionists, attacks on protesters during civil rights marches of the 1960s, and theharsh crackdowns on some Black Lives Matter protests of today.

Honoring Dr. King

Jewish Standard reports

Civil rights lawyer, Ryan Haygood, the president and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, will discuss “Where Do We Go From Here: Choosing Community Over Chaos” at a service in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr on Facebook Live from Temple B’nai Abraham of Livingston. 6:30 p.m.tbanj.org or email [email protected]

Far-right media stoke political division | Letter to the Editor

The Institute's Henal Patel writes

N.J. needs early voting and more, now

Our organization couldn’t agree more with the Star Ledger’s Jan. 11 editorial calling for expanded in-person early voting in New Jersey. It’s time to approve early voting now, in time for the November election when the Governor and whole Legislature will be on the ballot. Many states already have robust in-person early voting systems, and it’s long past time for us to join them.

We know that Black and other voters of color in particular traditionally distrust voting by mail, so having the ability to use an electronic machine when voting before Election Day and is essential for equity in our democracy. So is funding the electronic registration books that would make this possible.

While we’re at it, we must also pass same-day registration, so that people can register on the same day that they vote, as over 20 other states already allow. And, we should pass legislation to limit police presence at polling places to reduce intimidation to Black and other voters of color.

 

Coalition on Race Hosts 20th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Event

Baristanet reports

The South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race is hosting its 20th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Observance and Luminary Project on January 18, 2021 at 2:00 PM. This year’s event will be shared virtually via YouTube “Live” using this link https://youtu.be/hkh36SYKLm8. Everyone is welcome to participate—no account is needed.

At a time when our nation is simultaneously battling COVID19, economic challenges, and blatant racial injustices & inequities, the Community Coalition on Race’s goal for this year’s observance is to instill hope and sustain resilience locally. So, the MLK Planning Committee has chosen “Community in Times of Challenge and Controversy” as the theme for this year.

 

65 NJ Organizations insist on impeaching Trump

Insider NJ reports

New Jersey non-profit and grassroots organizations call upon legislators to issue a strong public response to insurrection at Capitol

More than 60 organizations ask for immediate action sending clear message that actions that undermine our democracy are not to be tolerated

On January 6, 2021, rioters incited by the President of the United States and other elected officials attempted an anti-democratic insurrection at the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. A coalition of non-profit and grassroots organizations in New Jersey is now calling for strong measures in response to the event.

The group is issuing letters to all fourteen members of New Jersey’s congressional delegation, Governor Phil Murphy, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin to initiate action. Listed among their demands are a formal censure of President Trump for his role, a call for the removal of President Trump through the 25th Amendment or impeachment, public condemnation of the racist double standard in policing, and an insistence on a thorough investigation followed by prosecution to the fullest extent of the law of all involved or complicit in the attack and the failure to secure the Capitol adequately.