Somerset County News

Community for Unity Rally in Somerville Hopes to Inspire Tolerance


SOMERVILLE, NJ – Jews and Muslims, Christians and Buddhists, Republicans and Democrats, men, women, whites, blacks, and people of multiple ethnicities will join together Monday night, Aug. 28 at the historic Somerset County Courthouse to decry hatred, prejudice and bigotry and deliver a message of tolerance and respect for one another on the anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Mayor Brian Gallagher and Steve Peter, Borough Council president; Rev. Paul Janssen of the United Reformed Church, 100 W. Main St., along with a dozen or more lawmakers, clergy and activists, will speak at the rally.

Organizers of the "Community for Unity Rally: A Call To Action" invite people to begin gathering on the courthouse lawn, 20 E. Main St., at 5:30 p.m. A 5-minute excerpt of the “I Have a Dream” speech will be shown at 5:55 p.m., with speakers scheduled to deliver their remarks at 6 p.m.

Sign Up for E-News

“I’ll talk about the amazing diversity that we have here in New Jersey; it’s what makes us such a strong state,” said state Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, D-16th. “There’s been so much divisiveness and hostility. It is beholden on us as Americans to rise above the hatred and take care of our neighbors – that’s what we do in New Jersey,” he added.

“The hope is that beyond this gathering that people go out and spread a message of acceptance and good will,” Zwicker said.

Monday’s rally is an outgrowth of an impromptu gathering of 75 people at the Unitarian Universalist Church on E. Cliff Street on Aug. 16, according to one of the organizers, Donna Volpe, who is the founder of the Somerville chapter of Hate Has No Home Here.

She and several others, angered by the violence and aftermath of the clashes in Charlottesville, Va., earlier this month involving right-wing extremists felt the need to "do something," Volpe explained. Many who gathered for that rally expressed the need to further express their outrage and rejection of the extremists' agenda, prompting Volpe to reach out to friends of a similar mind.

“In the wake of the Charlottesville incident, I’ve heard so many people say ‘That’s not us;” ‘That’s not my town;’ “That’s not America.’ Unfortunately, it is,” Peter said.

“Yeah, there’s a problem, and we need to address that so that Somerville and Somerset County don’t get to that point,” he added.

Volpe, along with Kristen Mehrbach, Andrea Stathatos, Michelle Edgar, Karen Gaffney and Jen Kitchen, have been busy the past 10 days planning the rally.

Their goal is to help facilitate understanding, unity and cooperation in the community through heightened awareness and getting people engaged, according to Mehrbach.

The Somerset County Diversity Cultural Coalition is sponsor of the event. Tulsi Maharjan, executive director, will speak at the rally.

Other speakers include State Sen. Christopher "Kip" Bateman, R-16; Joe Forte, secretary of the NJ LGBT Democratic Caucus Victory Fund Campaign Board; M. Ali Chaudry, president, Islamic Society of Basking Ridge and co-founder, NJ Interfaith Coalition; Rabbi Dan Selsberg, Temple Sholom; Ron Isaacs, Rabbi Emeritus.Temple Sholom; Mark Williams, member AACT-NOW; Karen Gaffney, professor of English, Raritan Valley Community College and author of the soon-to-be-released book, "Dismantling the Racism Machine: A Manual and Toolbox;" Carina Gonzalez, Outreach Librarian and professor at RVCC and Aldo Martinez, immigration attorney.

Each of the speakers is limited to 3 minutes, according to Volpe; a separate “candidates’ corner’’ for those seeking elected office in November will permit those office seekers an opportunity to interact with the crowd.

Information tables for the various organizations expected will be available; the organizers will also have markers available for those interested to sign their sentiments on a “Community for Unity” banner that they hope will be displayed in a public place in Somerville at a later date, according to Volpe.

The women emphasize that their newly-formed grass roots organization is non-partisan and not affiliated with any political organizations. Volpe's Hate Has No Home Here, and the Central Jersey Community Coalition are also playing a part in the rally.

"We invite you to join us in promoting UNITY in our community and in all communities of conscience," is their message on the website.

Civil rights activist Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King  Jr. delivered his defining "I Have a Dream" speech 54 years ago on Aug. 28 during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom;. He called for an end to racism in the United States and called for civil and economic rights. Delivered to over 250,000 civil rights supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the speech was a defining moment for the Civil Rights movement.

Borrowing from the theme of King's speech, Community for Unity offers the following message on its Facebook page:

"We Have a Dream---that all human beings, of all colors, ethnicities, genders, gender identities, nationalities, abilities, races, sexual orientations, religions, and economic backgrounds are treated EQUALLY under the law and are accepted as EQUAL in the hearts and minds of citizens here and everywhere.

"We Have a Dream---that within our lifetimes, rallies will not need to be held in order to promote the ideas of compassion, conscience, and connectedness.

"We Have a Dream---that all of us actively and vociferously reject the scourge of racism, anti-Semitism, and bigotry whenever and wherever we witness it. Furthermore, we commit to confronting white supremacist ideology in our communities, institutions, and personal lives.

"This is our dream, and this is the reality we must work together to create."

Further information is available online at 

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

South Brunswick-Cranbury

Police Blotter

South Brunswick and Cranbury Police Blotter

August 9, 2017

Sponsored by Reilly's Collision Center in Monmouth Junction. Click here and scroll down for the latest updates and alerts from South Brunswick and Cranbury Police.

See the most recent messages from South Brunswick Twp Police Department, powered by Nixle.

Upcoming Events

Sat, March 24

Black Diamond Billiard's, Union

Ladies 9-Ball Pro-Am by the Garden State Pool Tour

Other Sports

Sat, March 24, 8:30 AM

East Brunswick

Spinathon 2018


Sun, March 25, 3:00 PM

Mayo Performing Arts Center, Morristown

New Jersey Ballet's Hansel & Gretel

Arts & Entertainment

Murphy’s Puerto Rico Relief Commission Looks to Connect Families to Resources

March 20, 2018

PERTH AMBOY - Stephanie Márquez-Villafañe, president of the student-based Puerto Rican action group Rutgers Unión Estudiantil Puertorriqueña, offers a sobering assessment of New Jersey’s Puerto Rican student community in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the worst hurricane to hit the U.S. territory in recorded history.

"University students have ...

East Brunswick's Girl Scouts Work with a Young Woman's Busy Schedule

March 21, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - Have you wanted to join a Girl Scout troop, but just don't have the time? Check out this out. Busy teens can be Independent Girl Scouts -- all the programs and awards without the scheduled troop meetings. Teen girls can do badge work, attend events, travel, earn awards or do community service on their own time. (And ...

Murphy’s Puerto Rico Relief Commission Looks to Connect Families to Resources

PERTH AMBOY - Stephanie Márquez-Villafañe, president of the student-based Puerto Rican action group Rutgers Unión Estudiantil Puertorriqueña, offers a sobering assessment of New Jersey’s Puerto Rican student community in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the worst hurricane to hit the U.S. territory in recorded history.

"University students have ...

Rutgers voices support for proposed state budget

NEW BRUNSWICK - Rutgers University officials have often been wary of the governor's annual budget message, wondering what type of budget cuts the university may sustain and how it would potentially impact tuition and the overall quality of education.

This budget message, delivered March 13, appears to be a sigh of relief.

Pete McDonough, Vice President of External Affairs at ...

Queen Mary and the Cruiser

Queen Mary and the Cruiser by David A. Thomas and Patrick Holmes (Naval Institute Press, 1997)

“Had the forenoon watch and after eating went out onto the fo'c'sle. Just arrived at the top of the ladder by the PO's heads when the wave hit me---waist high---and knocked me over. Looking astern---through the bulkhead door which was open, saw the stern of a ship sticking up out of ...

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (Random House, 1965)


In Cold Blood is, quite simply, the grand-daddy of true crime writing, dubbed by Capote, himself, as the first non-fiction novel (although Norman Mailer argued the point when he published The Executioner's Song in 1979.) The conditions under which I read In Cold Blood for the first time were pretty weird, which was another ...

Middlesex County Young Republicans Host "Road to Victory" Event at the Green Turtle

March 21, 2018

NORTH BRUNSWICK, NJ -  Middlesex County Young Republican Chairman John Steiner would like to announce the Middlesex County Young Republicans "Road to Victory" Reception, which will take place on March 22 at the Green Turtle in North Brunswick from 7:30 PM to 9:30 PM.

This event will serve as the official launch for the 2018 campaign season for the Middlesex ...

Rep. Watson Coleman Urges Support for Students Participating in Protests: Letter to Local School Officials Asks for Encouragement Rather Than Punishment

EWING, NJ – Today, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) sent letters to principals and other school administrators in New Jersey’s 12th Congressional District urging support and encouragement for students who engage in protests and demonstrations for gun violence prevention amid reports that some New Jersey schools had suspended or otherwise punished students for their ...

ECSNJ Partnership with Rutgers Behavioral Health Helps Students Manage Life’s Challenges

PISCATAWAY – A collaboration with Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care is providing more behavioral and emotional support for students attending two Educational Services Commission of New Jersey (ESCNJ) schools.

Appearing on ESCNJ’s Better Together podcast, Assistant Superintendent Gary Molenaar said Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care “is a recognized ...