June 30, 2021

Joint Effort Safe Streets Announces Plans For August Witherspoon-Jackson Activities

By Donald Gilpin

“Not Bouncing Back, but Bouncing Forward” will be the theme when the Joint Effort Witherspoon-Jackson Community Princeton Safe Streets program returns this summer with nine days of in-person activities from July 31 to August 8.

Continuing to focus on the historic role of the Witherspoon-Jackson community as the 20th Historic District of Princeton, the 2021 celebration will recognize many stories of family, faith, leadership, history, community, and the future of Princeton with a wide variety of cultural, athletic, spiritual, entertainment, and educational events held at different locations throughout the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood and the larger Princeton community.

“The goal is to bring folks out of the pandemic,” said Joint Effort lead organizer John Bailey. “For the past two years we’ve been inside, dealing with the pandemic, and issues of race, health, unemployment. Folks need a break. But we’re not just bouncing back. We’re bouncing forward.”

Among the highlights of the 2021 Joint Effort will be a series of discussions of a new vision for Princeton with a focus on the future of the Witherspoon Street corridor, the municipal government, public schools, economic development, the future of cannabis in Princeton, and a forum for candidates seeking election to local offices. Also featured will be a community tribute to Joint Effort founder John Young; a meet-and-greet with Carol Kelley, the new superintendent of Princeton Public Schools (PPS), and Frank Chmiel, the new Princeton High School principal; a community block festival featuring Grace Little; a gospel music fest; a basketball clinic and games; and more. 

Princeton University will receive Joint Effort’s Jim Floyd Award for its equity and diversity efforts. The Mildred Trotman Award will be shared by two organizations, the Princeton Community Democratic Organization and the Princeton Democratic Municipal Committee, for their work in strengthening democracy and inclusiveness; and two individuals, Princeton Councilman Dwaine Williamson and Princeton Recreation Director Ben Stentz, both of whom will be retiring later this year.

At an event on Wednesday evening, August 4 at the Arts Council of Princeton, eight young scholars will be receiving $300 Joint Effort Book Scholarships to support their college education.

Jay Jackson and Fred Young Jr. will receive the Brothers From the Neighborhood Scholarship, sponsored by Thomas and Lawrence Parker, Leighton Newlin, and Dwaine Williamson. Hailey Young and Jordan Young will receive the Hill Family Scholarship, sponsored by Johnnie and Michael Hill in the name of Barbara Hill and William Kennedy.

The Mercer County
Commissioners’ Scholarship, sponsored by Commissioners John Cimino, Sam Frisby, Andrew Koontz, and Nina Melker, will be awarded to Janiyah Williams and Toniyah Harris. And the Liverman Family Scholarship, donated by Lance and LaTonya Liverman, will be presented to Skylar Hall and Emma Johnson.

In addition to the scholarship presentations, the August 4 Arts Council event will include an art exhibit, a community reception with the new PPS superintendent and the new PHS principal, and the Jim Floyd Memorial Lecture.

Bailey, who grew up in Princeton and is now a social equity leader, political consultant, and community organizer based in Denver, talked about the theme and significance of Joint Effort 2021. “Even though it’s a comeback, it’s really not a bounce back, because if it’s a bounce back that means we’re returning to normal,” he said. “And from a Black community perspective things were not necessarily good before the pandemic, so why would we want to return to that?”

Discussing the inspiration for the inception of the annual event about a dozen years ago, he continued, “The emphasis for me is not about ‘back.’ It’s about ‘forward.’ Young people need enrichment and education, especially now in coming out of the pandemic. I’ve been very fortunate, and that is why I come back and give to the town. This town set me on the right course, gave me the infrastructure, the common sense, nurtured me, saved me, blessed me, loved me, and so what I do is not a big thing to me. It’s part of who I am. My ancestors are calling me to continue to do the work.”