PISCATAWAY, NJ – Lawn signs have been popping up around Piscataway as residents take a stand against the acts of intolerance that have been shown against religious, ethnic and immigration groups across the country, making some to feel unwelcome and unsafe in the communities where they live.
These acts of hate prompted township resident, Staci Berger and her family to want to do something to show their support and commitment “to the diverse community we are proud to call home.”
“When it became clear that President Trump and his administration would target people because of their religion or immigration or refugee status among other things, we started looking for a way to let our neighbors and visitors to our town know that we believe everyone should be welcome in our country and in our community,” Berger said, describing how Piscataway is made better by the variety of people and families who call the township their home.
Through a friend, she found out about the ‘Hate Has No Home Here’ (HHNHH) sign project in Chicago.
According to its website, the HHNHH sign project began when a group of neighbors from North Park, a Chicago neighborhood characterized by its diversity of age, race, nationality and ethnicity came together to declare their community free from hate speech and behavior, and instead be a safe place for conversation, work, learning and living.
HHNHH’s mission is to “promotes just and inclusive communities by encouraging neighbors to declare their homes, schools, businesses, and places of worship to be safe places where everyone is welcome and valued.”
“We wanted to let people know that in our home, we stand up for democracy, equality and justice,” Berger explained, describing how local incidents such as recent threats made to the Muslim Center of Middlesex County inspired her to want to post a sign on her lawn to demonstrate her concerns about intolerance.
“After trying to create a few versions of a sign, I saw the one we chose on a friend's social media site,” Berger said about what led her to the HHNHH sign project that also asks supporters to use their creativity to start conversations in their communities about protecting and encouraging each other. “I thought it expressed the warmth and welcoming sentiment we wanted to share (about living in Piscataway).”
Berger’s posts on social media about participating in the HHNHH sign project met with a tremendous amount of support from her friends and neighbors in the Piscataway community. They wanted to know how to get one of the signs so they could stand with her in the fight for social tolerance.
Her husband had 100 of the lawn signs printed for her Valentine’s Day gift this past February which were snapped up quickly. “Another shipment of 100 arrived just the other day,” she said.
Susan Lopez was upset one morning to find her HHNHH sign appeared to have been vandalized just after setting it up.
“The first morning we woke up, our sign was mangled and bent on the lawn,” Lopez recalled. “I was incensed that someone would destroy my sign. Turned out from all of the tufts of fur and muddy hoof prints, the culprit was a deer running through my yard that ran into the sign. We bent it back into shape and cleaned it up. We were so glad it was not a mean human.”
“Everyone who has taken a sign for their lawn or their office is sending a message: together, we will stand up for the rights of our neighbors and friends who are threatened by the new administration or otherwise targeted by hate,” Berger continued, applauding the Piscataway Board of Education for their stance on the issue and for publicly recommitting to protecting all students.
She hopes the town council and mayor’s office will also commit to formal sanctuary community policies for the protection of everyone.
“These signs are a way for people who treasure the rich array of backgrounds and beliefs that make Piscataway a remarkable place to stand together, in solidarity, all around our town,” said Berger. “The tremendous response to this makes me so proud to live here and shows exactly what it means to say ‘We are PWay.’ "
Township residents interested in more information on the ‘Hate Has No Home Here’ sign project or who would like to request a lawn sign can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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