PLAINFIELD, NJ - The Plainfield community came together on Monday evening for a candle lighting ceremony at City Hall to remember the victims of the violence that took place in Charlottesville, and to unite against hate.
Council President Rebecca Williams welcomed the crowd, introduced members of the administration in attendance, and offered remarks on behalf of Mayor Adrian O. Mapp. Chief of Staff John Stewart, Jr. offered condolences to the families of Heather Heyer, and Virginia State Troopers Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke M. M. Bates, who lost their lives.
Nancy Piwowar, President of the Historical Society Of Plainfield, said, "I was asked to come here tonight to speak a little bit, to put the history of Plainfield in context. There's a lot of hidden history and secret history that a lot of us don't know that occurred in the United States, and even here locally."
She went on to explain how her family was a victim of the KKK in the 1920s because they were Catholic, and listed other periods in local history that involved hate groups.
Piwowar referenced Flanders Hall Publishing in Scotch Plains, a publishing house that printed Nazi propaganda, in a residence owned by a Plainfield High School teacher. Tom Deignan, in a May 2013 NJ.com column wrote, "How did one New Jersey family turn a sleepy town into a hive of espionage and Nazism?" The article provides a timeline of activities at the publishing house that led to this.
Tonight's keynote address was given by Rev. Hodari Hamilton of Shiloh Baptist Church, who had been the Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Charlottesville prior to moving to New Jersey.
"I am from Charlottesville, we were there pastoring for about six years, and while there we worked to make impact of what we saw as monuments of oppression and monuments of hate. We partnered with the NAACP, then moved into the churches; we partnered with the African-American teaching fellows, we partnered with many organizations because we saw opportunities to advance social justice."
Rev. Hamilton continued, noting that efforts to remove a monument and rename a park brought out the KKK and other hate groups. He learned, "it is easier to move monuments of hate than it is to change mindsets of hate. And the reality is, whether it is Charlottesville or even Plainfield, there are still mindsets of hate. And we still have an obligation to move mindsets of hate." First, he said, through unity.
As prayers were offered by Rev. Damaris Ortega of United Church of Christ Congregational, Rev. Ann Marie Alerman of First Unitarian Society of Plainfield, and Pastor Antoine Hart of Freedom Ministries, the crowd lit their candles.
Councilman Barry N. Goode concluded the evening by leading the crowd in "This Little Light of Mine.".