Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Silence STILL = Death: Be Vocal About HIV/AIDS in Plainfield

There were several moments during the Plainfield City Council’s agenda session and special meeting this past Monday evening (December 27, 2010) that puzzled me—including Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs’s two attempts (in violation of the law) to have the videographer stop the recording of the meeting/edit the record. 

I want to mention just one of those moments. At one point during the meeting, the mayor stated that her reason for wanting the camera stopped was so that she could provide those of us in the room with the statistics on current rates of HIV/AIDS infection in Plainfield. Why this public information would be deemed too delicate for the sensibilities of Plainfielders who watch the meetings on PCTV is beyond me. 

Remember the “Silence=Death” slogan from the 1980s and 1990s? It was very effective—the focus was on being LOUD about HIV/AIDS. What the mayor should have done, in my view, was not only make her comments ON CAMERA, but put those stats on the city’s website, sound the clarion, and even record a PSA on the alarming rates of infection among our population—frankly, it’s not too late to do so.

The time for delicate sensibilities is over—we need to be vocal, especially since Plainfield is one of the top ten cities in the numbers of HIV/AIDS cases reported in New Jersey. I work in Newark, where the rates of HIV/AIDS are astronomical; indeed, in the United States,it is the leading cause of death of black women aged 25-34 years. At Essex County College, where I teach and also serve as a member of the Urban Issues Institute’s Steering Committee (along with Plainfield’s own Christian Estevez), the Institute hosted an HIV/AIDS Awareness Week during the first week of December (World AIDS Day is December 1). 

Folks got tested, educational materials were distributed, we screened documentary filmmaker Cyrille Phipps’s Seen But Not Heard: AIDS, Sexual Politics, and the Untold War Against Black Women, and seminars and forums were held at the college throughout the week. We have done similar events at ECC in the past, partnering with other organizations located in Newark and Essex County.  

In Plainfield, it would have been great to have at least held an observance of World AIDS Day, some sort of acknowledgment of the suffering, and a commitment to increasing awareness, especially among our young people, among whose population we have seen the fastest rising rates of infection.  Well, although World AIDS Day has passed, we have another opportunity to get it right in Plainfield. 

Monday, February 7, 2011 is Black AIDS Awareness Day—observed during Black History Month—but certainly not precluding the idea of raising awareness among all ethnicities in the nation. I would like to propose that the city and the school district hold a formal observance of this day, and educate our young people on prevention, as well as offering information for those who are living with HIV/AIDS, as well as those who are or will be caregivers. 

Here are the statistics on HIV/AIDS in Plainfield, New Jersey from the state’s IMPACT (Intensive Mobilization to Promote AIDS Awareness through Community-based Technologies) Initiative (as of December 31, 2009). The IMPACT Initiative is “… a city-by-city community mobilization initiative designed to galvanize and support African American leaders to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS in cities with the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS.” (from the NJDHSS web site)

If the mayor has numbers/statistics more alarming than these, I think it behooves her to disseminate them as widely as possible and as quickly as possible. Silence still equals death.
Below are some links to additional information on HIV/AIDS.

All best,


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Help Those in Need This Holiday Season

The Soup Kitchen, ca. 1937
Norman Wilfred Lewis (American, 1909­1979)
Lithograph; Sheet; 21 1/2 x 17 1/4 in. (54.6 x 43.8 cm)
Image: 15 1/2 x 11 1/8 (39.4 x 28.3 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Gift of Reba and Dave Williams, 1999 (1999.529.118)

Dear friends,

This promises to be an extra-tough season for those who are finding it difficult to make ends meet. We can help. Here is a list of food pantries in Plainfield--it is only a partial list, as many other organizations also provide food for those in need. In addition, as you can see, there is a need for other kinds of assistance--providing toiletries, transportation, and so forth. Please try to help as much as you can. Click on the link below for more food pantries in Union County. 

All best this holiday season,


New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition - Food Pantries - Union County



Site: 600 Cleveland Avenue, Plainfield, NJ 07060
Phone: 908-756-1520
Hours: open last five days of every month (except Sundays): 11:30am-1pm
Contact: Mary Jo Buck
This site provides a soup kitchen.
Food Needs: any kind of food
Volunteer Needs: driver with car to pick up supplies, occasional help in food preparation and serving
Volunteer Requirements: age 15 and over
Special Needs: toiletries, laundry soaps, used clothing


Site: 905 Watchung Avenue, Plainfield, NJ 07060
Mail: P.O. Box 569, Plainfield, NJ 07060
Phone: 908-753-4001 x13 (Ellen McGovern, Executive Director)
Phone: 908-753-4001C x16 (Brenda Myrick)
Phone: 908-753-4001 x12 (Amy Van Pelt)
Phone: 908-753-4001 x20 (Susan Oldroyd-Laffler)
Hours: Office - Mon-Fri: 9am-5pm
Contact: Brenda L. Myrick
This site provides a shelter at a network of congregations in Union County, transitional housing, rental assistance, child care, a camp, education, budget management, and advocacy.
Volunteer Needs: committee members - Call Amy Van Pelt for details.
Volunteer Requirements: Call Amy Van Pelt for details.
Special Needs: funding and other needs; Call Susan Oldroyd-Laffler for details.


Site: 518 Watchung Avenue, Plainfield, NJ 07060
Phone: 908-756-6060
Hours: Office – 9am-4pm
Shelter - 24/7
Contact: Teresa McCoy
This site provides an emergency shelter.
Food Needs: breakfast and dinner foods
Volunteer Needs: need for churches and other groups to prepare meals and serve to residents
Volunteer Requirements: Contact site.
Special Needs: Contact Teresa.


Site: 615 Watchung Avenue, Plainfield, NJ 07060
Phone: 908-756-2595
Hours: some holiday closings – Contact site.
Office – 9am-4pm
Food Pantry: Tues & Thurs: 9:30-11:30am & 1-2:30pm
Soup Kitchen: Mon-Fri: 12-12:45pm
Contact: Captain Henry Thibault, Donald Nichols
This site provides a food pantry, a soup kitchen, church services in English and Spanish, and referral to alcohol and drug rehabilitation programs.
Food Needs: non-perishables and perishables
Volunteer Needs: office assistance, servers, clean-up, packers
Volunteer Requirements: age 18 and older
Special Needs: storage space, monetary donations, restaurant supply equipment, microwave, paper goods


Site: 631 East Front St., Plainfield, NJ 07060
Mail: P.O. Box 2822, Plainfield, NJ 07062
Phone: 908-755-8888
Contact: Lynda Stanbach or Edna Shanok
Food Needs: non-perishables
Volunteer Needs: food packers, drivers
Volunteer Requirements: license for drivers
Special Needs: cash donations for perishables and transportation for food

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Once More, With Feeling

To Whom It May Concern:
"Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought. To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears. To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool. To be led by the thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen. To be led by a liar is to ask to be lied to. To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery."
--Octavia E. Butler
No more room for cowardice, equivocation, or avoidance.
Stand and deliver.