April 22, 2015

Not in Our Town Princeton Poster Backs YWCA’s Annual Stand Against Racism

To the Editor:

Not in Our Town Princeton (NIOT) — an interfaith, interracial social justice organization — is supporting the YWCA’s annual Stand Against Racism with a poster that emphasizes the need for anti-racism efforts. The poster states “We are standing against racism today and every day.” Owners, managers, and employees from 99 establishments display this slogan in the ad on pages 4 and 5, publicly demonstrating their philosophy of treating all customers fairly and with respect.

Commercial Princeton has made great strides from the days when African Americans were not served in Nassau Street restaurants or allowed to make purchases in the shops. In the 1940s, as described in Notes from a Native Son, James Baldwin tells how a Princeton restaurant refused him service. Shirley Satterfield, Not in Our Town board member and acknowledged historian of the Princeton African American community, has described the resulting vibrant commercial life that developed in the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood, to serve African Americans where they lived. More recently, in the 1990s, an African American woman, who grew up in Princeton and, after her retirement from the Department of State, wanted to buy a house in the community, was told that houses listed for sale were no longer available. That should have been prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, the Fair Housing Act. Realtors say that no longer happens here.

NIOT volunteers were not able to reach every business, and some of them are prevented by their national headquarters from displaying the Stand Against Racism poster. But we strongly encourage the public to support those pictured in the ad, which was paid for by an anonymous donor. These firms help make Princeton a town where a friendly helping hand is offered to all.

Linda Oppenheim, Larry Spruill

Co-chairs, Not in Our Town