Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Orlando and Plainfield: Bonding and Acting

Councilor Rebecca Williams speaking at the Vigil.

Pastor Damaris Ortega of UCC-Congregational
and Fr. Gideon Uzomechina of Grace Episcopal Church.

Friday's Plainfield vigil for the victims of last weekend's Orlando massacre was an extraordinary event.

A large crowd gathered in the plaza in front of City Hall to commemorate the victims, declare their solidarity, express their anger and frustration and expound what a just and loving society would look like.

Several people spoke, including Mayor Mapp, Councilors Goode, Williams and Taylor and others.

I was swept up in the moment, and, while I took many photos, I did not take any notes. (However, I have posted the remarks by Siddeeq El-Amin, a representative of Plainfield's Muslim community, online here. A thank you to Siddeeq for sharing them. Also, you will find more photos on Bernice, Jackie and David's blogs.)

I am always struck at events like this at how powerful they are, how they draw together so many from the community who may have different views and interests, but who acknowledge a common solidarity and hope.

That being said, we can sometimes go home from such events feeling that our virtue has been vindicated, our anger assuaged, that the heavens have heard us.

But I was struck in particular by the remarks of Rev. Damaris Ortega, pastor of the United Church of Christ-Congregational. Besides heartbreak, anger and frustration, she brought a message that things must also CHANGE.

Resident John DeMarco.

Residents Siddeeq and Fahemmah El-Amin.

Part of the crowd at the Vigil.

Homemade sign features a quote from Maya Angelou.

I wonder what CHANGE in this regard would really involve here in Plainfield.

After the Rodney King beating in Los Angeles in 1991, a small group of Plainfielders, led by Rev. LaVerne Ball and Rev. Margot Campbell-Gross began meeting to discuss an appropriate response for Plainfield's situation.

After much talk and investigation, the group settled on housing -- particularly putting abandoned houses back into shape for residents. And thus was born Faith, Bricks and Mortar, which is now nearing a quarter century of housing advocacy in Plainfield.

But that was then, this is now. These are new times, with new challenges, new generations of residents, and Plainfield has become a much different community.

We will soon become a majority-Latino community. We have a sizeable LGBT community. Officially, Plainfield is a very open and welcoming community.

But there is still homophobia. Some churches still preach condemnation. Some families -- just as those in Orlando -- still have their own sort of "don't ask, don't tell" culture.

As Rev. Ortega asked, when will we be ready to simply accept and love everyone?

And what will we do to help get there?

I, for one, am ready to help, but it seems like time for a new, younger crew to begin the push.

Who will that be?

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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