NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – The storm began to brew before the proposed proclamation against discrimination ever appeared on the Monday, July 13 council agenda. Due to the email and social media campaigns the mayor and council decided not to present the proclamation at the zoom meeting as planned. However, the discussion on racial issues and the way racial issues are approached in New Providence continued at the meeting.
The pulled proclamation condemned hatred and urged residents to display tolerance and acceptance to all members of the New Providence community regardless of one’s race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation and political affiliation. The main criticism towards the proclamation was that it was created without consulting the Diversity Committee or any of the minority groups in New Providence. The other complaint was that it was not communicated to residents that the proclamation was to be a conversation starter.
Some residents pointed out that minority members of the community are capable of speaking for themselves and their perspectives should be the basis of any proclamations regarding race and ethnicity. Any proclamations should also make a statement opposing systematic racism, they said.
Borough resident Nikisha Hidalgo explained that her Facebook posting on the New Providence community forum prompted some residents to respond negatively and attack her character. She said that she only wants her independent voice to be heard to promote community inclusivity.
Sunil Abrol, Chairman of the Diversity Committee, advocated for patience along with follow-up listening sessions within the community. “We are all humans. We make mistakes,” he said. He acknowledged that sometimes emotions flare, but shouting matches should not occur. He noted that no one has a monopoly to begin an action and that there are many avenues to engage in a dialogue. He explained that as the chairman his role is to provide the community with “spaces” where dialogue can take place. We are one human race, and racism is a huge challenge which will not be solved in one day, he said. “You have my utmost respect,” Mayor Al Morgan said as he commended Abrol for bringing the community together on many occasions.
However, not all residents were pleased with Abrol’s vision of how to obtain racial harmony in New Providence. With all due respect we have been listening but you are not willing to hear us and our vision of activism, said Jaime Lauren.
Borough resident Alexander Savin recalled his experiences of persecution in Belarus and pointed out that people of many backgrounds can face discrimination. He questioned the habit of splitting residents into different groups based on their racial and ethnic backgrounds, and instead advocated that residents view everyone as a “solid” group of people.