Our History

What first brought us together

    During the weekend of February 20, 2009 an offensive and potentially inflammatory flyer was distributed on the lawns and driveways of residents of Scotch Plains and Fanwood. The organization identified on the flyer was The League of American Patriots. A review of the organization’s website discloses a bias that is not welcome in this community. An effort was made to bring this community together to ensure that this ugly seed does not have fertile soil in which to grow.

The Scotch Plains- Fanwood Ministerium, an organization of clergy and community leaders in our community, convened a meeting at St. Johns Baptist Church on June 4, 2009. Led by a representative from the U.S. Justice Department, a group of approximately 20 members of the SPF community engaged in small-group discussions about our individual backgrounds and personal feelings about race. Following a brief discussion of the entire group, it was decided that the discussion should continue and a follow up meeting was scheduled for September.

Finding a way to speak and to listen

A follow up meeting was held at Temple Sholom on September 17, 2009. Some “Ground Rules” were set to create a safe space for discussion. The group then discussed specific current events and real-life situations, and ended the meeting with the distribution of “stems” for stimulating thought and conversation. The group also left with a commitment to participate in a workshop series held on November 4th, 11th and 18, 2009.

Throughout 2010, a core group met and planned the future of the committee. In the process, the committee read and discussed three books: Silent Racism by Barbara Trepagnier, The Anti-Racist Cookbook by Robin Parker and Pamela Smith Chambers, Courageous Conversations About Race by Glenn E. Singleton and Curtis Linton, and a history guide called…, by….The committee decided to be organized as Social Justice Matters. It developed a mission statement.

    The core group committed to eighteen hours of training over three days, ending on February 2, 2011. The Beyond Diversity Resource Center (BDRC) conducted the training to equip the Social Justice Matters steering committee with techniques for facilitating discussions about race. The first public program will be a workshop (or forum, or seminar) on the issue of race during the 2011 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. Hosted by The Chelsea at Fanwood, and facilitated by the BDRC, the session, entitled "What's Race Got to do with It?", is the first opportunity for Social Justice Matters to open safe, conversations about race.

Working together toward the future

Social Justice Matters will continue to meet and organize on three levels:

1. “Steering Committee” – those who make the commitment to: a) undergo eighteen hours of diversity training; b) participate in the “book club” readings and discussion sessions; and c) facilitate small-group sessions within the community.

2. “Members” – those who participate in “book club” readings and discussion sessions with “board members.”

3. “Participants” – those who participate in small-group sessions.

 Social Justice Matters will also serve as a resource for community concerns. It will also convene and facilitate focus groups to engage in truthful and meaningful discussions about race and related topics.