SPRINGFIELD, NJ - For people who used to live on the square, the memories came flooding back yesterday afternoon.
Organizers in town had held the reunion successfully two previous times biannually, and for all those in attendance, the chance to reminisce was not lost on them. This year's reunion was held at the Springfield Hilton, on Route 22
The Springfield Square, a three-block stretch of streets by the Antioch Baptists Church, was the only available section in town for many decades where black residents were shown houses, in a policy known as redlining.
As a result, even though there are now black residents living all over Springfield, the concentration remains highest at the site of the square. But for the former residents at the reunion, in spite of the roadblock placed before them, the bonds forged during those years were still evident.
Sherri Franklin, who still lives in Springfield, was one of the members of the organizing committee. For Franklin, the chance to bring everyone back together was wonderful.
"It's just a pleasure," Franklin said. "It's a pleasure for us to do it because growing up in Springfield, [it] was like our community was a village. Everybody loved each other. Everybody took care of each other, and as you can see, we are so happy to see each other and just be together."
"It's a beautiful opportunity to get together with folks we grew up with and see how successful they are today," Franklin's brother Terry said. He lives in Dover, DE, but makes it back up north for every square reunion.
Over the course of the reunion, attendees mingled with each other. Stories were swapped, people were updated on living situations, families and more, and those at the reunion also had the chance to have some food and drinks.
One of the most poignant moments came towards the end of the afternoon when organizers asked residents of the square to stand up, take the microphone and share a memory of their time in that section of town.
Reunion Attendees then spent several minutes reminiscing about shared experiences at the square, from neighborhood-wide kickball games, to idolizing the older kids and even just hanging out just after dark under the streetlights.
Each recollection was met with a round of applause from those at the reunion.
One of the attendees at yesterday's festivities was Henrietta Parker Greene. Her late husband was Alfred Parker Jr., the first black policeman in Springfield's history. For Greene, who lives in Lawrenceville, GA, there is a sense of comfort from coming back to town.
"Someone asked me yesterday when I arrived, 'what does this mean to you?' Green said. "When I come to Springfield, I have one word to say. It's home. I've been away from here for 20 years, however, every time I come, I feel [at] home."
She also took the time to reminisce about her childhood, relaying quick anecdotes about her life in the square to TAPinto Springfield. But for her, the joy of the reunion is in the event itself, when former residents can come together.
I am truly blessed to be able to share this event," Greene added. "To recognize the history of the Springfield Square. So it's an honor just to be able to come."
As of press time, the next reunion of the square is tentatively scheduled for some time in 2021, although very few logistics of the next reunion have been discussed.