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Say the Word: Reparations Rally draws statewide supporters

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On Oct. 30, 2021, 200 people representing a statewide coalition of faith-based and civic-action groups, came together at historic St. Peter’s Perth Amboy to urge the State Legislatures to pass Bills S322/A711 to establish a state reparations task force to study ways to redress historical and systemic racism in the state of New Jersey.

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Say The Word: Reparations

Rally draws statewide supporters

Nearly 200 gathered on October 30 for the rally, Say The Word: Reparations, calling on the New Jersey Legislature to act on S322/A711 bills to establish a Reparations Task Force to confront disparities resulting from the legacy of slavery. #saythewordreparations

Larry Hamm, People’s Organization for Progress, addresses a crowd of 200 at the “Say the Word: Reparations” rally on Oct. 30, 2021 at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Perth Amboy, NJ

Despite the iffy weather, supporters from around the state assembled at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Perth Amboy to hear and cheer representatives from a coalition of civic and religious organizations addressing the importance of reparations.

“We are standing on hallowed ground,” said the Rev. Gregory Bezilla of the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey at the start of the rally, pointing to the nearby graves, which included Thomas Mundy Peterson, the first African American to vote in an election after the 15th Amendment was enacted, March 31, 1870.

A key message, interspersed throughout the rally, was the call “Say The Word—Reparations!”

Noting that the group gathered steps away from the Peterson gravesite as well as near a major port for the slave trade and a stop on the Underground Railroad, Rohn Hein, Unitarian Universalist Faith Action (UUFA) declared, “This is where the oppression took off.”

Hein cited three next steps: sign the petition calling for the reparations task force; call elected legislators; and prepare for Legislation Day in Trenton on November 11.

Perth Amboy is located in the district of Assembly President Craig Coughlin, who was repeatedly invited to the rally but did not attend nor send a representative.

The Right Rev. William H. Stokes, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey, addresses a crowd of 200 at the “Say the Word: Reparations” rally on Oct. 30, 2021 at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Perth Amboy, NJ

Despite Coughlin’s absence, Ryan Haygood of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice addressed the request to the Assembly President: “We are asking for the Task Force.”

Among those offering testimonials was NJ Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter, who suggested participants call their legislators and ask them to be co-sponsors of the bill.

Larry Hamm of the People’s Organization for Progress led a group chant, “They stole us. They sold us. They owe us.”

Responding to Coughlin’s absence, Bishop William Stokes of the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey concluded, “Silence is the weapon of the oppressor. Ignoring us is an offense. We merit being listened to by Speaker Coughlin, who is the speaker of our Assembly.”

S322/A711

Bill S322/A711, establishing the New Jersey Reparations Task Force, requires the Task Force to:

(1) examine the institution of slavery within the State of New Jersey;

(2) examine the extent to which the State of New Jersey and the federal government prevented, opposed, or restricted efforts of former enslaved persons and their descendants who are considered United States’ citizens to economically thrive upon the ending of slavery;

(3) examine the lingering negative effects of slavery on living African-Americans and on society in New Jersey and the United States;

(4) research methods and materials for facilitating education, community dialogue, symbolic acknowledgement, and other formal actions leading toward transformation, reparations remedies, a sense of justice, and economic justice among the descendants of enslaved African people in this State;

(5) make recommendations for what remedies should be awarded, through what instrumentalities, and to whom those remedies should be awarded.

Larry Hamm, People’s Organization for Progress, listens as Assemblywoman Shavonda E. Sumter (D), addresses the crowd at the “Say the Word: Reparations” rally on Oct. 30, 2021 at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Perth Amboy, NJ

Learn more/resources

Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey www.dioceseofnj.org

Unitarian Universalist Faith Action NJ https://www.uufaithaction.org/

New Jersey Institute for Social Justice https://www.njisj.org/

Lutherans Engaging in Advocacy Ministry NJ https://www.leamnj.org/

State of NJ NAACP http://www.njscnaacp.org/

New Brunswick Theological Seminary https://nbts.edu/

Peoples Organization for Progress https://www.njpop.org/

Anti-Racist Alliance – NJ http://www.antiracistalliance.com/

Social Justice Matters, Inc. https://www.socialjusticematters.org/

Salvation and Social Justice https://sandsj.org/

NJ Legislation https://www.njleg.state.nj.us/bills/BillView.asp?BillNumber=S322

St Peter’s Perth Amboy history https://www.stpetersepiscopal.com/history

Faith in New Jersey http://faithinnewjersey.org/

Faith in Action

Faith in New Jersey http://faithinnewjersey.org/

 

For more information:   info@dioceseofnj.org