February 14, 2018

Three Days of Community Events At Safe Streets Program Next Month

By Anne Levin

John Bailey usually waits until August to hold the Joint Effort Safe Streets Program, his annual week of community-focused activities in Princeton’s Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood, where he grew up. But this year, the Denver-based political consultant is making two pilgrimages to his hometown.

Bailey has organized a three-day festival March 15-17. The main purpose is to honor Princeton Councilman Lance Liverman, who will step down from Princeton Council after 15 years on the governing body and numerous other services to the community. The festival will also pay tribute to Women’s History Month, with special recognition of departing Councilwoman Heather Howard.

“We’ll continue the usual program in August,” Bailey said this week. “But it’s 2018. It’s a new day and I think we need to be more vigilant and awake as individuals and as a community. With Dr. [Martin Luther] King’s birthday, Black History Month, and Lance retiring, it just made sense to use him as a lightning rod to bring the community together. He represents all the good things Princeton is about. And I didn’t want issues to come up in April or during the summer without acknowledging his extraordinary service.”

Liverman will be honored March 15 at the First Baptist Church of Princeton, 30 Green Street, with a community reception at 5 p.m. A recognition program follows at 6:15 p.m. Testimonials, proclamations, music, song, and dance are planned.

The following evening at 5 p.m., a community reception and history program will be held at Studio Hillier, 190 Witherspoon Street, to present the Witherspoon-Jackson Community Heritage Trail plaques to Princeton’s four historic black churches. Witherspoon-Jackson was designated the town’s 20th historic district in April, 2016.

“It was important that we continue keeping our history,” said Shirley Satterfield, a local historian and longtime resident of the neighborhood. “So John and I came up with the Witherspoon-Jackson Cultural and Historical Society, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the research, preservation, understanding, appreciation, and celebration of the rich and proud history of African Americans in Princeton, New Jersey.”

The four churches — Mt. Pisgah AME, Witherspoon Street Presbyterian, First Baptist, and Morningstar Church of God in Christ, will each be presented with a plaque. “When I do a tour or a presentation, I always let people know how important these churches have been in our community,” Satterfield said. “A lot of people don’t know that the Morningstar Church of God in Christ, which is on Birch Avenue, has been there since 1941. It was started by the Lee family. All of the churches except Witherspoon started in private homes.”

The final event on March 17 is a “Critical Issues Update” and a Council Candidates Forum at 10 a.m. at Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church. So far, six people have announced their intention to run for the Council seats being vacated by Liverman and Howard. Alvin McGowen is the latest to declare he will run.

“There might be more candidates by March 17, and the more the merrier,” said Bailey. “Princeton is unique. We have some very good folks and it will be interesting to hear from them.”