It was a sad night at the September 8, 2021, Newtown Board of Supervisors meeting.
The debate over hybrid Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) meetings, which would allow residents the option to attend and participate via Zoom or other technology, continued at the September 8, 2021, BOS meeting.
In a comment to the BOS, Newtown Grant resident John D’Aprile was of the opinion that the township should not spend money on hybrid meetings so that “lazy” residents can attend. “Why should we cater to someone who is lazy and does not want to come to meetings?,” quipped Mr. D’Aprile.
Uber Refuses Guide Dog!
Meanwhile, at the August 25, 2021, BOS meeting, resident Terry Christensen, Chairman of the Board of Friends Village, said that he supports the hybrid option, as many of the Friends Village residents are not able to attend meetings in person anymore, but are still very eager to participate in local government matters.
In response to my questions, Mr. Christensen said that he is visually impaired and unable to drive and has taken Ubers to recent meetings. He cannot stay late as it becomes difficult to arrange for a ride later in the evening; he has also been refused a ride because he has a guide dog.
BTW, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a guide dog should be able to go anywhere that a blind person can go.
Adding Insult to Injury!
In my opinion, Mr. D’Aprile’s comments are an insult to residents who are NOT lazy such as the elderly, the handicapped, and anyone susceptible to COVID infections. Mr. Christensen was able to attend only because of the kindness of another citizen who gave him a ride – with his guide dog!
Yes, residents can watch BOS meetings that are simulcast on cable TV. But more and more people – especially the elderly – are doing away with expensive cable TV and using streaming media such as Youtube. Newtown does NOT stream its BOS meetings via digital media such as Youtube. Even if it did, it would not be advisable to allow unedited comments from anyone, including trolls and non-residents.
Yes, residents can send comments via email or postal mail to the township to be forwarded to all supervisors, but these comments are NOT read aloud at public BOS meetings and are NOT included in the official minutes of meetings. Basically, you are out of luck making your opinion known to other residents unless you attend the meeting in person.
What You Can Do To Help
This underscores the need to have hybrid BOS meetings that give residents - not just supervisors - the OPTION to attend and participate virtually. If you agree, PLEASE SIGN MY PETITION! To date, 180 people have signed. All signatures will be sent to the supervisors.Read More...
Posted on 09 Sep 2021, 11:19 - Category: Discrimination
On May 4, 2021, Doylestown Township passed a resolution that designates June 19th as "Juneteenth Freedom Day" (read “Doylestown Township Passes Juneteenth Freedom Day Resolution”). This is in recognition of the date in 1865 that Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas and enforced President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation order, freeing the slaves in Texas two and a half years after it was first decreed.
I was told by Kevin Antoine, Chief Diversity Equity Inclusion Officer at Bucks County Community College and Chair of the Newtown Township Human Relations Commission, that down south where he grew up, he and other black people celebrated June 19th as their equivalent of the 4th of July.
On June 19, 2019, PA Governor Wolf signed legislation that designates June 19 as “Juneteenth National Freedom Day” in Pennsylvania. So why the Doylestown resolution?
Most importantly, the Doylestown resolution offers a bit of local history. It states, for example, that the last people legally enslaved in Bucks County were freed from slavery in Doylestown Township in 1824 only to be transitioned into “indentured servitude for decades longer.”
This was a bit of history I did not know about until I read the resolution. But I had questions: Were slaves “freed” in other townships prior to and after 1824? Who owned slaves in Bucks County? Where did they live in Bucks County? How many slaves did they own?
I got some answers to my questions from the “Register of Slaves” in Bucks County from 1783-1830. The register was maintained by Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Office of the Prothonotary and was published as part of the University of Pennsylvania History Commons (source: Wright, Robert E., "Slaves in Bucks County, Pennsylvania," 01/01/97 - 01/01/97. 6. Philadelphia, PA: McNeil Center for Early American Studies [distributor], 2015. http://repository.upenn.edu).
It is interesting to note that Pennsylvania “abolished” slavery in 1780, but it was an “Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery,” which allowed the institution to survive, in various guises, for decades. Hence, the Register of Slaves documents the ownership of slaves in Bucks County through at least 1830. In fact, the last enslaved Pennsylvanians wouldn’t be freed until 1847. And let’s not even talk about indentured servitude!
The Bucks County Register of Slaves includes the name, occupation, and township of an estimated 179 enslavers as well as the name, gender, and age of an estimated 514 persons enslaved in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries (1783-1830). Obviously, there were many more slave owners and slaves BEFORE this record was started in 1783.
The first thing I looked at was the names of slave owners. Was there anyone in the list who is famous in Bucks County or whose name is enshrined somehow?
Who Owned Slaves in Bucks County?
We have all read of the controversy of naming military bases after Confederates and statues of slave owners being torn down in the south, but what about the north? Recently the NY Times reported on a new campaign called Slavers of New York, which is aiming to call out — and eventually map — the history of slavery in New York City. The effort highlights the streets, subway stations and neighborhoods named after enslavers. Coming from NYC, I know these areas well: Nostrand Avenue, Boerum Hill, Lefferts Gardens, and others.
There are several Lefferts in the Register of Slaves in Bucks County: two Arthurs (Bensalem and Northampton), one Peter (Newtown) and one Leffert (Northampton). I don’t know if these slave owners were related to whomever Lefferts Gardens is named after in NYC.
Another name that stuck out was Thomas Yardley, a Farmer in Lower Makefield, who owned 9 slaves (see Sample Page). The Wikipedia entry for Yardley PA states that William Yardley founded Yardley, PA, and a Thomas Yardley was his nephew. Is this the same person as the slave owner Thomas Yardley in the register? During the American Civil War, Yardley was a station for the Underground Railroad.
I next looked to see if there were any slave owners in Newtown and I found 9 who owned 16 slaves (see below). According to W. W. Davis' History of Bucks County, there were 23 slaves registered in Newtown (read “Newtown and Slavery”).
The majority of slave owners in Bucks County were farmers. I count 78 farmers in the register. Perhaps at the time these farmers were referred to a “planter aristocrats," which is what the Pennridge School District called southern slave owners (read “Did Pennridge 'Planter Artistocrat' lesson sanitize slavery?”).
List of Bucks County Slave Owners
The following is a list I created from the Register of Slaves. I grouped together the data from the same slave owner to calculate the total number of slaves that person owned. You can also download the PDF file.Read More...
Posted on 21 May 2021, 01:41 - Category: Discrimination
A RESOLUTION OF THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF DOYLESTOWN TOWNSHIP, BUCKS COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA DESIGNATING JUNE 19th AS JUNETEENTH FREEDOM DAY
WHEREAS, Juneteenth is recognized as the oldest commemoration of Black economic liberation in the United States; and
WHEREAS, the last people legally enslaved in Bucks County were freed from slavery in Doylestown Township in 1824 into indentured servitude for decades longer; and WHEREAS, President Abraham Lincoln first issued the Emancipation Proclamation effective January 1, 1863, freeing enslaved people in the South. However, southern slave owners ignored that order. On June 19th , 1865, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas and enforced the President's order, freeing the slaves two and a half years after it was first decreed. This day has since become known as Juneteenth; and
WHEREAS, Through other systems of oppression, such as sharecropping, Jim Crow, redlining and mass incarceration true equality has yet to be realized for Black Americans; and
WHEREAS, Today Black Americans face inequities in our judicial system, medical systems, employment and housing as the lingering effects of enslavement and racism; and
WHEREAS, Juneteenth was recognized as a state holiday in Pennsylvania on June 19, 2019.
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THIS 4th day of May, 2021, that the Doylestown Township Board of Supervisors adopts this resolution and designates June 19th, as "Juneteenth Freedom Day", recognizes the historical significance of Juneteenth Freedom Day to Doylestown Township, and supports the continued nationwide celebration of Juneteenth to provide an opportunity for the people of the United States to learn more about the past and to better understand the experiences of the Black community that have shaped the United States and to rededicate ourselves to work toward freedom and equality for all.
DULY RESOLVED THIS 4th Day of May 2021.Read More...
Posted on 06 May 2021, 11:27 - Category: Discrimination
In January 2021, the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors (BOS Definition) appointed new members to the Human Relations Commission (HRC), which was established by the Anti-Discrimination Ordinance passed by the BOS on November 28, 2018 (read “Newtown Township BOS 2018 Accomplishments”).
The Anti-Discrimination Ordinance, a copy of which you can download here, safeguards the right of citizens to obtain and hold employment and public accommodation and to secure housing accommodation and commercial property "without regard to actual or perceived race, color, gender, religion, ancestry, genetic information, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, familial status, marital status, age, mental or physical disability, use of guide or support animals and/or mechanical aids, and to have equal access to postsecondary educational institutions."
The Commission will handle complaints through a fact-finding conference with the parties of the dispute in order to reach a resolution without the need to hire lawyers or go to court.
Voting Members of the Commission
Kevin Antoine, JD: The inaugural Chief Diversity Equity Inclusion Officer at Bucks County Community College, Kevin is the Chair of Newtown Township’s Human Relations Commission. He has more than 16 years of experience in diversity and inclusion, non-discrimination and civil rights compliance with state and federal laws and regulations.
Angelic Acevedo: A physician by training and originally from Puerto Rico, Angelic is a member of the Newtown Elementary Diversity Committee and has volunteered with her church in Plainsboro, NJ and other non-profits. She also leads the Princeton Pike chapter of the Organization for Latino Achievement, an employee resource group that her employer, BMS, sponsors. As part of this group, Angelic facilitates employee development activities for Hispanic minorities as well as liaises with other resource groups to champion events that help reinforce an environment of inclusion.
Nicole Adams: “Since I came across an article that referenced race relations in Newtown and specifically named the Commission as a change agent in this work in the community, I was immediately intrigued and interested,” said Nicole in her application. Nicole brings a diverse background to the organization. She has the unique experience of growing up in a very diverse community and comes from a multi-racial and interfaith family (Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Black and White).
Ivan Winegar: Ivan is a retired resident living in Newtown since 1990. “In my retirement, I have been active with the African American Museum of Bucks County (on the Education Committee), a member of the Interfaith Community of Lower Bucks (working on providing opportunities for racial and ethnic groups to get to know each other better), a member of the Peace Center of Langhorne (participating in many of their activities)," said Ivan in his application.
Aamir Nayeem: “Being the son of Muslim immigrant parents, I'm unfortunately aware of the discrimination that ethnic and religious groups face regularly,” said Aamir in his application. “Although I haven't personally faced much harassment or discrimination living and going to school in Newtown, I'd like to be a part of the solution and make sure that others don't have to deal with it either.” While a student at the University of Pittsburgh, Aamir was a member of the Muslim Students Association's executive board, which hosted events and discussions helping educate others about Islam and helping students deal with the rise of Islamophobia.
Non-Voting Members of the Commission
Non-voting members of the Commission are ex officio members whose background and expertise broaden the diversity that serves on the Commission.
Kara McCarthy: Kara is a 2005 graduate of the University of Notre Dame with a BA in Sociology. She also has a Master's in Social Services from Bryn Mawr College. She worked for a year as a social worker in two Catholic schools in West Philadelphia. “My goal is to continue to be a participating member of this community and to continue to join in the conversations that the Human Relations Commission has started on handling racism in Newtown," said Kara in his application.
Samantha Gross Dorf: Currently working as the Executive Assistant to the Provost of the Bucks County Community College, Samantha is co-chair of the Race, Ethnicity, Diversity, and Inclusion Advisory Group to the President and lead of the student food insecurity group. These two additional roles at the college allow Samantha to serve the coliege in the areas of equity, diversity and inclusion.
John R. Gyllenhammer: John is Deputy General Counsel and Chief Counsel for Health Sciences at Drexel University in Philadelphia. During his 25 years in legal positions at Drexel University and George Mason University, John has had extensive involvement with anti-discrimination laws and regulations applicable to employees, students, patients and members of the general public.
Thank you Kevin, Angelic, Nicole, Ivan, Aamir, Kara, John, and Samantha for volunteering to serve on this important Commission!Read More...
Posted on 29 Mar 2021, 01:41 - Category: Discrimination
Love is Love Commemoration
On March 11, 2021, several local human rights activists and elected officials met via Zoom to commemorate the passage of Newtown Township's LOVE is LOVE Resolution.
The goal of this meeting was to discuss ideas on raising awareness of the discrimination against the LGBTQ+ minority youth in our community and building "allyship" to combat it. Several activists, elected officials and students were guest speakers. See the video/transcipt of the meeting below.
- Marianne Alt – Kidsbridge Tolerance Center
- Kevin Antoine, JD – Chief Diversity Equity Inclusion Officer at Bucks County Community College
- Council Rock students
- Gayle Evans – Director of Community Programming, Peace Center
- Kristin Mallon – sponsor of the Council Rock North School Gay Straight Alliance
- Marlene Pray – founder and director of the Rainbow Room
- Barbara Simmons – Executive Director Emeritus of the Peace Center
- Robert Szwajkos – Newtown Borough Council member
What I Learned
Some takeaways for me include:
- Information about the Equality Act
- The importance of "allyship" - the practice of emphasizing social justice, inclusion, and human rights by members of an ingroup, to advance the interests of an oppressed or marginalized outgroup. Allyship is part of the anti-oppression or anti-racist conversation, which puts into use social justice theories and ideals. [source: Wikipedia]
- Making Newtown more LGBT+ Minority youth friendly perhaps via education for adults/parents.
- Pursue collaboration with Peace Center, Bucks County Community College, Rainbow Room and Youth4Unity, Newtown Parks & Rec Dept, Newtown Twp & Boro Human Relations Committees, CR North Gay Straight Alliance, etc.
- Establish an official LOVE is LOVE Day in Newtown
- And so much more...
It was suggested that we do more of these meetings. That sounds good to me. It was also suggested that we have Town-sponsored event such as a Town Hall meeting. Also suggested was working with local businesses to support a friendly LGBTQ+ minority youth atmosphere.
Let's all think about next steps. Meanwhile, please keep in touch by joining the Newtown Area Anti-Discrimination FB Group.Read More...
Posted on 14 Mar 2021, 01:20 - Category: Discrimination