Religions and Spirituality

Activists Gather at Somerville Church to Send Message About Bigotry, Hate and Divisiveness


SOMERVILLE, NJ – The Central Jersey Community Coalition, an emerging local grassroots social action network whose mission is to “educate, advocate, inspire, and act,” will host a gathering of concerned citizens and activist organizations on Saturday, Jan.21 from 2-6 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Somerset Hills, 123 E. Cliff St.

“We are facing a period of unprecedented uncertainty because of the November election. It is imperative we become more educated, inspired, and involved in response to the atmosphere of hate and divisiveness that has engulfed our community,” reads a statement on the organization’s website.

Several social justice organizations are expected to participate, hoping to recruit new members.

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Several speakers are scheduled, including Ali Chaudry, Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, the NJ Interfaith Coalition, and the Pledge to Stand Up for the Other; attorney Joyce Phipps, Casa Esperanza; Tulsi Maharjan, Somerset County Cultural Diversity Coalition;, Azra Baig, a member of the South Brunswick Board of Education; attorney Aldo Martinez and George Helmy, a member of New Jersey Sen. Corey Booker’s staff.

Baig, a Muslim, experienced bigotry and hatred during her campaign for reelection to the school board in November, with several of her campaign signs vandalized with Islamophobic comments.

“They wrote ISIS over my name, called me an ISIS sympathizer, a raghead and un-American,” she said.

The incidents were reported to the police; there have been no arrests, and the investigation is still open, according to Baig.

“I know these individuals don’t represent the majority,” she said.

Once the incidents were reported by the media, she received an outpouring of support from across the nation.

“It is horrible that someone could do that; there is hate out there, we see it every day now, unfortunately but I am optimistic, there is more love out there than hate; I know that just by interacting with people,” Baig said.

The Meta Theatre Company, a social justice theater company based in Hunterdon County will perform.

Participants will learn:

* How to get involved with various local social justice groups;

* How xenophobia, Islamophobia, racism, sexism, and homophobia impact the local community;

* How to take action at the local, state, and national level;

* How to help de-escalate a confrontation.

Organizers say the local event will provide an opportunity for participants to come together in solidarity with other social justice teach-ins and protests planned around the country that day.

The local event coincides with the Jan. 21 Women’s March on Washington where a crowd of protestors is expected to convene between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the Lincoln Memorial.

A statement from the organizers reads:  “The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us — women, immigrants of all statuses, those with diverse religious faiths particularly Muslim, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native and Indigenous people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, the economically impoverished and survivors of sexual assault.

 “We are confronted with the question of how to move forward in the face of national and international concern and fear.

“The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new administration on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us,” they added.

Additional organizations that are involved with the local event include: the Hunterdon County Anti-Racism Coalition, RESULTS, Safe and Sound, Citizens Climate Lobby, the Giving Network, the Immigrant Defense Network of RVCC, the Muslim Student Association of RVCC, and AACT-NOW! - African American Community Takes New Outreach Worldwide and the New Jersey chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

The event will conclude with a candle-light vigil at 5:30 p.m. and a potluck dinner at 6 p.m.

Further information is available online at

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