MAPLEWOOD/SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — The two towns of SOMA have joined cities across the country in support of communities of color by painting 'Black Lives Matter' down Valley Street today. South Orange's phrase is in front of Blink fitness center and Maplewood's lettering begins at the field behind Columbia High School. The identical twin phrases are on opposite sides of the street, just yards apart.

As in Washington, DC, and in Montpelier, VT, where the message is painted in front of the statehouse, the placement by CHS has meaning. "This is for the kids who have been harmed in our towns. This is for them first," said Maplewood Committee Member Dean Dafis.

"By doing this, we are standing in solidarity with Black lives everywhere including those in our community who have been harmed by biased policing, hate, and systems created to keep them out of equal access to opportunity, life, and liberty. This symbolic action also signals our commitment to change and transformation at all levels in order to dismantle racism," Dafis told TAPinto SOMA. 

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"I’m proud of our youth who have courageously shared their truth of living in SOMA or MAPSO, in other words about the hate and aggressions they have experienced in our towns. This is for them, first!  This is our first small step at reducing harm and eliminating shame."

For Mayor Frank McGehee, himself the second Black mayor of Maplewood, the message is not a finish line. "For me and for my family, this is an important turning point for how far we have come as a community and as a country, but we cannot and will not be complacent. We have a lot more work to do to create real and sustained change."


CORRECTION: Frank McGehee was originally described as the first Black mayor of Maplewood. That title belongs to Ken Pettis, who served as mayor in 2008.


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