“We [must be] willing to suffer the discomfort of change to achieve a better future” - Barbara Jordan, American lawyer, educator, Congresswoman and leader of the Civil Rights Movement

The past weeks have been a powerful learning experience for America, New Jersey and for me personally. Over the last two weeks I have heard a number of agonizing stories from those in my district while attending prayer vigils and Black Lives Matter events.

My objective in joining these locally organized events has been to listen and to learn how I can do better as a father, citizen, and elected official. I attended these events to better understand how I might use my platform to be a voice for those who, for too long, have had none.

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I know that step one is acknowledging the problem, and so I want to say outright that black lives matter, that George Floyd's murder was gut-wrenching and an abuse of power, and we must work together to end systemic racism in this nation.

I grew up in a household that deeply valued civil rights, often hearing stories about my Great-Grandfather’s fight to outlaw lynching and my father’s march with Martin Luther King Jr.

I have sought to hold true to that idea by spending my legislative career working to ensure that children from all backgrounds have an equal opportunity for success in this state and in this country.

It pains me to know there are whole communities of people, including in my very own backyard, who do not feel safe because our institutions have continuously failed them. I know that I have a responsibility to change that.

A little over a week ago, the heartfelt testimonies given by several Westfield High School students particularly pained me. For over two decades, we have raised our daughters in Westfield and have been intimately involved in the community. To hear these students’ first-hand experiences with racism in our schools was jarring. It was a sobering reminder that even in 2020, here in our community, racism still exists. We may not see it, but the people of color in our communities live it.

This is a pivotal moment for our community and the nation, and we owe it to ourselves and our fellow Americans to seize this moment and embrace this call to action.

I stand with the black community, and I am eager to work with all of my constituents, and local law enforcement on solutions that will restore trust, build hope and drive equality in our communities. I hear you, and the time for change is now.