Sunday, November 19, 2017

Young, Black, and Suicidal: A Cause for Alarm

The son of a classmate of a close friend of mine committed suicide recently. What awful feelings of hopelessness and despair must have filled his waking thoughts until he made his terrible, fateful decision to end his pain. I talk about suicidal children in my 19th century black literature classes--two texts that I teach are Frederick Douglass's Narrative and Harriet E. Wilson's autobiographical novel, Our Nig respectively (see links below for the complete texts). In each, we see the despair and the traumatizing effects and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness that our ancestors bore, even as young children.

For Douglass, the devastating realization that his young, black life was doomed to enslavement made him contemplate suicide at the age of twelve: "I often found myself regretting my own existence, and wishing myself dead; and but for the hope of being free, I have no doubt but that I should have killed myself, or done something for which I should have been killed." 

Similarly, fourteen year-old Frado, the free Northern black indentured servant (a fictionalized version of Wilson) has suicidal thoughts, which are overheard by James, the sympathetic son of her white mistress: "'Oh! oh!' I heard, 'why was I made? why can't I die? Oh, what have I to live for? No one cares for me only to get my work. And I feel sick; who cares for that? Work as long as I can stand, and then fall down and lay there till I can get up. No mother, father, brother or sister to care for me, and then it is, You lazy nigger, lazy nigger—all because I am black! Oh, if I could die!'" 

These two protagonists do not kill themselves, but they speak to the depth of psychological pain experienced by children who live without hope. In the past several years, the statistics for black children who attempt and/or commit suicide are rising. I was reading an article on black children and suicide that was published a couple of days ago (November 14, 2017) in The Root-the entire story is below--just click on the link.  

A 2016 article in CNN quotes a study in JAMA Pediatrics, noting : " youth may experience disproportionate exposure to violence or traumatic stressors, both of which have been associated with suicidal behavior. Also, research has shown that black youth are less likely to receive services for depression, suicidal ideation, and other mental health problems compared with non-black youth"--click here to read the entire CNN article. The article also notes that the highest youth suicide rates are among Native American youth.

Monday, September 25, 2017


It's that time again! The Plainfield Division of Parks and Recreation will once again host two Halloween events: Doggy Howl and Trunk or Treat! The Doggy Howl will take place at 12 Noon on Saturday, October 28, 2017. Trunk or Treat (limited to children ages 12 and under) will take place on Tuesday, October 31, 2017 from 6:00 PM until the candy runs out. Both events will be held in the parking lot behind Plainfield City Hall at 515 Watchung Avenue. The Trunk or Treat Costume Parade will start at 6:30 PM, and awards will be given for "Best Family Costume" and for "Best Trunk." Contact the Recreation Division at (908) 753-3097 for an application to enter the Trunk or Treat competition, or just print out the application below. No application is necessary for the Doggy Howl, but please make sure that your pet is leashed. This is a great event--there are prizes for "Best Small Dog," "Best Large Dog," and "Best Dressed Duo"--you and your dog! Please bring some pet food for donation to the Plainfield Area Humane Society! These annual events are a lot of fun--I look forward to seeing you there!



Monday, September 4, 2017

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Thursday Concert: "FLAVUH," NY/NJ's Preeminent Neo-Soul Band!

Okay, Plainfield! I know that those of you who came out to last week's awesome "Rhythm Revue Dance Party" with DJ Rahiem Diggs and DJ George Moore had a great time, as the photos (below) attest! It was a wonderful evening of music, dance, and fun! Well, we are finishing up this year's "Thursdays in the City Summer Concert Series" with an encore performance by FLAVUH, described as "NY/NJ's preeminent neo-soul band," featuring Plainfield's own Wayne Griffin! Playing classics and hits, this band will want to make you bring your dancing shoes again!
The final show is this Thursday, August 31, starting at 7:00 pm at City Hall Plaza, 515 Watchung Avenue!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

This Weekend: Youth Commission Pool Party & Senior Swim Soiree!

The City of Plainfield is hosting two great events this weekend--one for the teens, and one for our older active adults! This Saturday, August 26, 2017, from 2:00 - 6:00 pm, the Plainfield Youth Commission, in partnership with the Plainfield PBA, will host the "Youth Commission Pool Party and PBA Community Cookout" at Hannah Atkins Pool, located at 508-552 West 3rd Street. In addition to music, games, and food, there will be a FREE GIVEAWAY to the first 50 teenagers (in the pool area). ID is needed to enter the pool area (15-19 year olds) and, as always, proper bathing attire is required.
Sunday, August 27, 2017, from 3:00 - 7:00 pm, the City of Plainfield is proud to sponsor the "Senior Swim Soiree" for our seniors (AKA older active adults), also at Hannah Atkins Pool, located at 508-552 West 3rd Street. Registration is required--call (908) 753-3097! Come and enjoy water aerobics, card games, music, dancing, and food and drink. There will also be a Bathing Suit Contest (Best Cover Up, Best Designed Bathing Suit, and Most Colorful Bathing Suit). Bring your own beach Chair! Lifeguards will be on duty!
So...come on out and have some fun as we end the summer pool season!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Thursday Concert: RHYTHM REVUE DANCE PARTY & Battle of the DJs!

Bring your dancing shoes, because this week's "Thursdays in the City Summer Concert Series" will showcase our Rhythm Revue Dance Party, featuring a "Battle of the DJs," with our DJs playing a variety of music--classic house, old school, r & b, hip hop, and even favorites from the 60s, 70s, and 80s! The show starts this Thursday, August 24, starting at 7:00 pm at City Hall Plaza, 515 Watchung Avenue! We will close out on August 31 with an encore performance by FLAVUH, described as "NY/NJ's preeminent neo-soul band!"

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Plainfield's Vigil: Ev'rywhere We Go...We're Gonna Let Light Shine

Some of the crowd who attended the Plainfield Vigil on behalf of Charlottesville, VA victims.

Last night, residents of Plainfield joined clergy, elected and appointed officials, and community leaders at a vigil we held on behalf of the murderous, racist violence that occurred in Charlottesville, VA last week. I want to thank my colleagues and administration officials who attended, along with Rev. Hodari Hamilton, Rev. Ann Marie Alderman, Pastor Antione Hart, and Rev. Damaris Ortega, who delivered words of comfort and strength to our community. After a rousing invocation and benediction "book-ended" by City Council Vice President Barry Goode, we closed out the evening as he led us in song. Here is a video (posted on YouTube by TapIntoPlainfield's editor Jenn Popper). 

At the request of a couple of friends who attended, I am posting below the words that I spoke last night

We are here this evening to come together as one as we mourn the deaths and injuries that occurred in Charlottesville, VA last week, and in hopes of renewing our commitment to fighting against racism and all the other “isms” that would seek to further divide our nation. The events of the past week have thrown into high relief the continuing moral failures of our country, exemplified in the words of the disgraceful Donald Trump--who has decided that it is "okay" to equate the counter-protests of the Black Lives Matter activists and other anti-racist groups with the KKK, neo-Nazis, and the other white supremacist individuals and groups who injured and murdered American citizens in the name of white supremacy and anti-Semitism. 

As we have seen, many are ignorant of the history lessons of the past—when Donald Trump, possibly the most ignorant person ever to occupy the White House, says that there were “…many fine people…” marching with the KKK members, neo-Nazis, and other white supremacist racist groups—we must call him out. Our country has had a very painful history—the pain continues, despite the end of legal slavery through the historic amendments to the Constitution, despite the advances gained through the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and despite much additional legislation designed to live up to the credo of equal rights. A little over a month before the end of the Civil War in 1865, President Lincoln delivered his 2nd Inaugural Address. In that speech, knowing that the war’s end was near, he spoke of the need for the nation to come together. He said:

“If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said 'the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.' With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

So, Lincoln was saying that whether it was Providence that allowed the offense of slavery to come, Providence also brought the war, and Providence dictated that the blood of the lash upon the enslaved would be paid by the sword—meaning, the Union would fight the traitorous Confederacy until the war was done. The South did not commemorate their treason until decades after Reconstruction, when the vanquished and their descendants erected monuments to their treason and evil. To those, like Donald Trump, the neo-Nazis, the KKK, and other white supremacists, whether in groups or alone, who want to maintain shrines to these traitors, we must say no. Pull the monuments DOWN. 

I know that I speak for the entire governing body when I say that is important that we, as a city, stand together against those who want to normalize and fan the flames of racial hatred. We will not accept a moral equivalency between those fighting racism and those who revel in its violence. We must say ‘NO’ to such evil. Thank you.