Tag Archive: activism

MLK slept here: Will this boarded-up rowhouse become a hotspot of activism?

MLK slept here, Camden NJ
The young Martin Luther King slept here, in a back bedroom. Photo: Emma Lee

At 753 Walnut St. in Camden, there’s a house bordered by a weed-choked vacant lot. Its windows and door are boarded up; the only way in is to stand on a plastic milk crate and hoist your way in through a first-floor opening, maybe risking splinters. There are more boarded up houses than anybody in Camden is comfortable with, but this one is different, and it got a lot of attention this week. It seems Martin Luther King, Jr. slept there – lived there – in the late 1940s and early 1950s while he was a seminary student, and becoming the man he was to be.

Patrick Duff of Moorestown, N.J. wants to see this house become a headquarters for civil rights information and activism. I love the idea of this; Camden deserves a place like that, a place of community discussion, organizing and planning, a place connected to history by learning, by Dr. King’s education.

The house is also connected to a 1950 incident in a nearby Maple Shade bar that may have focused King’s life. King stopped in with three friends for a drink, to be turned away and threatened with a gun fired at the ceiling. And it’s how Duff found the house; the address was listed in a criminal complaint King fired against the bartender.  

How to demotivate activists and lose elections

Hi, my name is Adam L. I live in Bergen County and I have a problem.

I am exactly the type of person who should be writing this kind of post, and sadly, am precisely the kind of person that the Bergen County Democratic Organization, er, the “new name, same garbage” Democratic Committee of Bergen County should be alarmed is writing this kind of post.

I moved to the fifth legislative district in August 2006, just in time to do a bit of volunteering for Paul Aronsohn’s campaign against Scott Garrett – one of the very worst members of Congress.  I knew nothing about the brewing disaster that Joe Ferriero’s tenure was about to unleash on the County Democratic Party apparatus.  I was able to get a bit more involved in 2008 for Dennis Shulman’s campaign, and started to realize the rot that was forming in the County Party during the following year when I was able to help with the Governor race, the local Assembly race and get more involved in Retire Garrett, the mess of the 2010 Congressional race, the Freeholder race and ultimately getting on the County Committee.

With the recent redistricting and the “new new” leadership of the BCDODCBC, there was hope that with time to prepare, a somewhat better district, a better environment to run and the County Party talking about “the right kind of candidate can defeat Scott Garrett” – I wouldn’t be writing this kind of post in March of the election year.

Alas, I was wrong.

First, there was talk of a potentially tasty showdown between Congressman Steve Rothman and Garrett.  A race that could very well have been won and a race that even the DCCC was willing to plunk down money to fight.  And that was over before we could even start thinking about how great a race that would be.

Then, there was the anticipation of Assemblywoman Wagner running – and the exposure that would bring along with a very solid candidate, who could also attract the attention that comes along with potentially being the only female in the NJ Congressional Delegation.  And unfortunately, Assemblywoman Wagner’s month long decision to “let us know next week” turned out to also be a “no-go”.

With the Giants winning the Super Bowl, the County Committee happened to turn the heat up on the speculation that former Giant great Harry Carson would run.  Certainly an unconventional choice but clearly one that would draw attention to the race like no one else could.  And after another few weeks of speculation, that fizzled out quickly.

Once more turning to the “anyone but the popular Freeholder from another County in the District” card, another relative outsider, Jim McQueeny, was quickly the “next great hope” before pulling out the day before the big announcement that he was in.

So here we are – an elected Freeholder who was clearly being pushed aside for a “better choice that never came” was possibly just waiting for that better choice to come along and then drop out, didn’t get the necessary signatures to be on the Bergen County ballot.  And the BCDODCBC never found that better choice in their minds – leading to months of motivated activists like myself wanting, hoping, waiting and imploring to help out in a race that we desperately want to win – clearly way more than Bergen County Democratic leadership wants to win.

This will also ultimately hurt the County races – not to mention the Senate race and Presidential race – and forget about the once again lost cause of a Congressional race.

With all of the time that could have been used for the least bit of planning (or contingency planning) and the development of a bench that clearly is severely lacking, it is baffling that we have seen these events yhis year.

I have two young kids and a full time job and precious little free time.  So, why would I want to help a County Party that doesn’t want to help itself?

Slacktivism: My New Favorite Word


Have you seen this:
“Most people have 1000 wishes for Christmas; a cancer patient only has one,to get better. I know 97% of you won't repost this to your status, but my friends will be the 3% that do. In honour of someone who has died, or is still fighting, or survived cancer, copy this to your status.”

Or this:
“Change your facebook profile picture to cartoon from your childhood. The goal? To not see a human face on FB till Monday Dec 6. Join the fight against child abuse. Copy and paste to your status and invite your friends to do the same.”

“Slacktivism”: Defined in the Urban Dictionary as “The act of participating in obviously pointless activities as an expedient alternative to actually expending effort to fix a problem, The search for the ultimate feel-good that derives from having come to society's rescue without having had to actually gets one's hands dirty or open one's wallet.”

Now, I have nothing against fighting cancer or child abuse. In fact, I ride every year in the Philadelphia American Cancer Society Bike-a-thon, and contribute to others who participate in similar events. As for the cartoon character thing, I was taken to task by my otherwise sensible friends for not participating. My take: if you want to fight child abuse, do something about it, beginning with taking care of your own kids.

I am currently the administrator of a Facebook page called NJ against Chris Christie. How I became administrator was by accident. I came across the page in March, when I was angered by some of the items in the 2011 budget proposal, and wanted to engage in some slacktivism of my own. I contacted the creator of the page, exchanged some emails, and he made me the administrator. My duties consist of finding interesting news items and comments to post on the page, to spur some lively debate. Membership has grown to over 43,000, up from 60 in March.

This is all well and good, but not much gets accomplished except complaining and arguing. Very few members have actually attended any Christie Town Hall Meetings (I have). Very few have contacted the Governor or their State Legislators to air their grievances (I have) or attended a budget hearing in Trenton (I have).

I am ready to hand control of the NJACC page to someone else willing to preside over complaints and fat jokes. I am happy that my inaugural post to Blue Jersey was so well received and look forward to being a more regular contributor. I'm also teaming up with some friends on a special project which will be unveiled soon.

There is a great deal to be done in NJ politics in the near future: the next budget battle and State Legislature elections in 2011, keeping the White House and Senate Democratic in 2012, as well as gaining back the House majority, and of course, replacing the Current Occupant of Drumthwacket in 2013.

The next time someone asks you to join a Facebook group, “like” a page, join a cause, or sign an e-petition, ask them: “What are your DOING?”


In his recent diary Nick Lento speaks movingly about Cliffside Park students protesting Christie’s school cuts. It’s great to see students becoming activists. We have gone through periods when they were politically uninvolved. Most recently we have admired young Iranian students courageously taking their lives in their hands to to protest corrupt elections.

Rutgers has a rich tradition of activism. For Paul Robeson just staying and excelling at Rutgers (1915-1919) was a form of activism as other students wanted him off the football team and gone from the university. In 1957 fraternity men attended a demonstration in Trenton protesting financial cutbacks. (Now there is an idea to follow up on.) Students protested for anti-segregation in the 60’s and supported jailed integration activist Donald Harris in 1963. Black students took over Conklin Hall in 1969. In the 80’s these students supported El Salvador, Palestinian rights, Lebanon, and Puerto Rico. Later they supported University President Bloustein in his principled stance against apartheid.

As a child in Argentina I saw students protest against Juan and Eva Peron. An outspoken activist at my school was thrown off a train and lost a leg, but Peron was deposed.  Later living in the Bay area, I witnessed activism at UC Berkeley where Mario Savio led the Free Speech movement. The university had banned all campus political activity and fundraising, but this firebrand changed Berkeley forever.

More recently students have brought energy, ideas, and enthusiasm to lots of activist causes. Many of the NJ ACT UP members were young local students who were fighting both their own grave health problems and an apathetic government.

At a recent Garden State Equality Town Hall Meeting several students were among the most articulate speakers. High school and college students from across NJ converged in Trenton for the Senate ME rallies. Others helped on the phone bank. Some were dispatched with cell phones to neighborhoods where they urged people to call their local legislators.  The gay activist movement itself in NJ has a long history. It gained momentum at the time of Stonewall, followed by the formation of the Gay Activist Alliance of NJ, and demonstrations and lobbying to strengthen the anti-discrimination law.

On March 26 when NJ students started skipping class to protest teacher layoffs, our Governor-General said, “They’re being used. I don’t blame the kids at all. They’re pawns.” Well Governor, I’d be careful if I were you. These “pawns” have taken on bigger men than you and rocked our world.  Power to the students!

“Time To Break Silence”

Let me preface this post by saying that I strongly support the gay rights movement and applaud their effective and aggressive activism. Their willingness to confront issues, organize, passionately advocate their rights, and engage in activism to move a political agenda is inspiring and should serve as a model for other communities. The recent Trenton demonstration and lobby effort is impressive and truly inspiring.

But, I am deeply troubled about our current politics and priorities.

On Tuesday of this week, we all know that President Obama announced the escalation of the Afghanistan war.

Outraged by this decision, I felt compelled to act. Old enough to remember that US campuses erupted in protest in the wake of Nixon’s escalation of the Vietnam war, and hoping for some kind of similar spontaneous outpouring of concern, I went to the belly of the beast, West Point.

But apparently only 275 or so of my fellow citizens felt so moved and joined a candlelight vigil and protest there. There must be 10 million people  within a reasonable driving distance of West Point, so that small of a turnout is an indication of something deeply wrong in our politics. http://www.lohud.com/article/2…

The next evening, I joined an even smaller candlelight vigil in Princeton. Although it was raining and cold, I would guess there were only about 30 people or so. Where were the Princeton students? Where was Dr. Cornel West and other prominent Princeton faculty? Where was the clergy and progressive communities of faith and goodwill?  http://www.nj.com/mercer/index…

So, in the wake of these disappointments, the huge 700+ turnout to Trenton to advocate for marriage equality led me to think of Dr. King’s famous 1967 speech, where he came out against the Vietnam War and joined a burgeoning anti-war movement.

Many in the civil rights movement opposed King’s linking of the war with domestic issues and civil rights:

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: “Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King?” “Why are you joining the voices of dissent?” “Peace and civil rights don’t mix,” they say. “Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people,” they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.


So, I ask, is it time yet to break silence?

Where is the anti-war movement?

Why can progressive communities turn out 700+ people to lobby Trenton for marriage equality,  but virtually none to oppose an immoral and unjust war?

A Dream Of Peace (NJ Congressmembers Work To Ease Humanitarian Crisis In Gaza)

In response to the recent Gaza War, a fundraising page was set up on ActBlue.com in order to contribute to elected officials who have been supportive of the peoples of Israel and Palestine.  The page is called “A Dream of Peace: Justice and Equality for The People of Israel and Palestine”, and can be found here.

The mission of the page states “All of the people of the Holy Land need to live in peace and security. We need to support and elect candidates that are willing to stand up for the rights of the citizens of Israel and Palestine. These candidates support measures to stop violence, increase economic and humanitarian aid, actively engage in negotiation, and promote co-existence among these two Peoples.”  

What Do We Do On November 5th???

What’s that you say?   November 5th is a long way off?  We have about 4 weeks left in THIS election?

Absolutely RIGHT!  There’s STILL time for ALL of New Jersey’s Democrats with safe seats and deep pockets to get off their butts and open their wallets in support of the WHOLE ticket!

(This started out as a comment in Thurman’s excellent diary The Senate Race that Wasn’t http://www.bluejersey.net/show…  but it went a bit far afield from his immediate subject……)

……….I wish Lautenberg and Stender had used their financial advantages and momentum to call upon ALL of the NJ congressional delegation to make it a CRUSADE to put win in ALL the contested seats.

Frank and Linda will likely win; but they could have been far more aggressive and won for the whole state instead of just focusing on their own elections.

The same applies to all the congressional incumbents like Rothman and Pallone et al who have safe seats.  Why aren’t they all all over the state stumping for every challenger???   Makes no sense to me.   Is that considered “rude”?   Is there an unwritten law against congresspeople supporting challengers to sitting members???

We could have had a statewide reform movement that would have garnered another half a million new voters to vote for Barack and to create a downticket landslide that just might have swept folks like Tom Wyka and certainly Dennis Shulman into office.   As it is they are still fighting long odds

I really do wonder about the intelligence, competence and motivations of the NJ Democratic party.

Do they REALLY want to win big and REALLY clean up/transform our state?   Or is it just about maintaining a corrupt status quo that puts more money into the hands of the same individuals and corporations that have been raping us forever?

Yeah sure, I’ll vote Democratic across the line…..but only because the Republicans would be even worse for New Jersey…..but is that really the best we can do???

It’s time the people of New Jersey, MOST of whom will back a progressive reform agenda that provides fundamental root to branch change, literally TAKE OVER the state Democratic party from the morally/ethically corrupt hacks who are now in control.

Nothing less will do the job.

The people, institutions and corporations who have been living “high on the hog” off of the hard work and sweat pf NJ taxpayers have to be thrown out of office and thrown into jail (where possible).   There is no more “fat of the land” for them to live off of.

New Jersey: Send a message – STOP THE SPYING!

This post only pertains to New Jersey as much as you take action with it.  Just like our freedom is only free as much as you take action to keep it that way.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is teaming with People for the American Way to demonstrate to Congress that we are serious about ending unwarranted spying and denying immunity to telecom companies that have profitted from selling access to your phones, electronic communications, and God only knows what else.  It’s simple.  

You can read about it at Stop the Spying – but the idea is simple.  Take a picture of your self and/or your family with a message telling Congress to Stop the Spying.  Then send it to photo-at-stopthespying-dot-org.  Then post it here (I recommend using a flickr account if you don’t have your own hosting) and include your Congressional district number in the caption.

Come on, Blue Jersey.  If fourteen month old babies can do it (before daddy finishes his first cup of coffee no less) you can do it, too (and if you need help, just ask).

Time to show – literally – where we stand!

Much to Celebrate, Much to do

The fact that New Jersey no longer has the option to kill someone is proof that we can change the world.  Those responsible for achieving this victory deserve our admiration, our thanks, and a big fat holiday.

But there is much work to do yet.  An unGodly war still rages in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Families must still make a decision whether to care for each other or bow their head to the bossman’s demands.  Schools are still failing.  Taxes still fall far too heavily on those who can withstand their destructive power the least.  Our rights are under assault and we have far too few champions who will stand up and draw a line in the sand on our behalf.

Let us all celebrate our victory on the death ban.  But let us also renew our commitment to fight for the best of all possible worlds.  Our work is done, but it is never done.

Get some Kleenex, then click on through and watch one of the most poignant videos I’ve ever seen.