July 28, 2021

Joint Effort Opens With Gospel Festival; Eight Days of Cultural Events Follow

By Donald Gilpin

Coming out of the pandemic with themes of reconnection and “a new vision for Princeton,” the Joint Effort Witherspoon-Jackson Princeton Safe Streets celebration begins this weekend with a fish fry and reunion gathering at the Elks Lodge on Saturday afternoon and a gospel festival at the First Baptist Church of Princeton at 5 p.m. on Sunday, August 1.

“The highlight of this nine-day celebration is reconnecting with people,” said Joint Effort founder and event coordinator John Bailey, “with an emphasis on cultural expression, intellectual dialogue, and conversation on the future of Princeton.”

He continued, “We will hear from people who have a message, and I hope these events will be meaningful and purposeful. Folks have been isolated for 18 months, and it’s good to come out, cautiously, and resume the historical and cultural experience.”

Bailey pointed out that masks will be available for voluntary use. “With the COVID upsurge we have to be mindful in accordance with state and CDC guidelines,” he added.

The kick-off reception and first “new vision for  Princeton” discussion will take place on Monday, August 2 at Studio Hillier on Witherspoon Street. Bob Hillier, architect, Studio Hillier principal and a Town Topics shareholder, will present a “Vision for the Witherspoon Street Corridor,” with Mayor Mark Freda, Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, Mercer County Commissioners Sam Frisby and Andrew Koontz, and Witherspoon-Jackson Historical and Cultural Society President Shirley Satterfield participating. Princeton Councilwomen Michelle Pirone Lambros and Mia Sacks and Princeton Council candidate Leighton Newlin will contribute follow-up remarks. 

The second “new vision for Princeton” discussion occurs on Tuesday, August 3, at 5 p.m. in the Princeton Public Library (PPL). A 5:30 p.m. forum will focus on the youth services vision with Arts Council of Princeton Executive Director Adam Welch, Princeton Recreation Department Deputy Director Evan Moorhead, Princeton YMCA Senior Director of Youth Development and Outreach Leigh Zink, PPL Director of Youth Services Susan Conlon, and Youth Program Advocate and longtime coach Thomas Parker.

The municipal government vision discussion at 6:30 p.m. will include Freda, Council members Leticia Fraga, David Cohen, Eve Niedergang, Lambros, and Sacks, along with new Princeton Municipal Administrator Bernie Hvozdovic.

“Meet and Greet”

A community reception for new Princeton Public Schools Superintendent Carol Kelley and the introduction of new Princeton High School Principal Frank Chmiel will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, August 4 at the ACP. The Chip Fisher and Romus Broadway Memorial Art Exhibit with a community photo collage will be featured at the ACP with art by Aaron Fisher, Tracey J. Hill, and the Broadway family and music by PHS student violinists Abigail and Angela Bao.

The community program, beginning at 6 p.m., will feature Evelyn Turner Counts’ reflections on growing up in the Witherspoon-Jackson community followed by remarks by PPS BOE President Beth Behrend, Kelley, Chmiel, Freda, Frisby, Koontz, Lambros, Sacks, and Newlin.

Also on Wednesday evening, the Founder’s Award will be presented posthumously to John Young, a founder of Joint Effort Youth Foundation; Councilman Dwaine Williamson will receive a Mildred Trotman Community Service Award; and Princeton University will receive the 2021 Jim Floyd Memorial Lifetime Achievement Award for its commitment to social equity and social justice.

Several Joint Effort book scholarships will be presented to local students enrolled in college, and the evening will conclude with the Jim Floyd Memorial Lecture presented by the Rev. Marjorie Lewis on “Resilience, Rehabilitation, and Recovery in the Black Community.”

More “New Visions”

On Saturday morning, August 7, in the final weekend of Joint Effort 2021, three more perspectives on the ”new vision for Princeton” will unfold at the First Baptist Church with distinguished panels on local issues of economic development, a local candidates’ forum, and a cannabis vision for Princeton.

A youth basketball clinic in the morning, a community block festival at the Princeton YMCA field in the afternoon, and another reunions gathering at the Elks Lodge will also take place on August 7, before Joint Effort 2021 wraps up on Sunday, August 8 with the Pete Young Memorial Games and Community Awards at the Community Park basketball courts and a final reunion gathering at the Elks Lodge after the games.