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  • Writer's pictureKaren Brittingham-Edmond

The Unconscionable Desecration Of Historic Black-owned Ruffin Cemetary In Tinton Falls, N.J. Update

Updated: Jul 27, 2023

Letter from the Editor - Echo Soapbox #1 - Opinion July 18, 2023

As many may know, the relaunched Echo, NJ's oldest Black-owned newspaper, has reported extensively throughout the last five years regarding Black church-owned church yards at Pine Brook Cemetery and Shadow Rest Memorial Park. Plus, the privately Black-owned Ruffin Cemetery in Pine Brook, NJ. Which is now renamed Tinton Falls, N.J. These ancient burial grounds are off the cross street of Squankum Rd on Ruffin Court. The territory of Pine Brook, now renamed Tinton Falls, was where African American citizens were buried alongside their Lenni Lenape and Cherokee ancestors. The site had been a traditional burial ground for Lenni Lenape tribal members before colonial times. After colonists landed and treaties began to be broken, Lenape's sister tribe, a segment of the Cherokee people, relocated to New Jersey, where Chief Reevey would purchase a parsonage of land from Mr. Peter Rock. Chief Reevey, once acquiring said parsonage of land, established Reevey Town in 1882.

Picture taken by Karen Brittingham-Edmond Sunday, July 16, 2023

On a side note, Pine Brook was once called Macedonia. Where with the church located in the town of Macedonia was also called Macedonia A.M.E. Church. The land was located on Lenni Lenape territory. The black-free town of Macedonia was established in 1814. This area is the site of the original enslaved African and Lenni Lenape indentured servant uprising. We know this because the story has been repeatedly told by elders which correlates to an unusual number of enslaved Africans and indentured Lenape were provided manumission papers in 1823. As mentioned above, these direct descendants of the Africans and native tribal people who resided in New Jersey would have children who would fight in and win The Civil War. Providing American citizens and others with freedoms and rights that many countries do not enjoy or provide for their citizenship today.

Picture taken by Karen Brittingham-Edmond Sunday, July 16, 2023

Unfortunately, the Ruffin Cemetery site is overgrown with grass and weeds again. Plus, the tremendous mess of turned-over soil plus knocked-over tombstones that Mr. Cicalese did within six months with the help of Governor Phil Murphy. And The N.J. Board of Cemeteries Acting Director Cari Fais. Cicalese dumped over 800 remains of people from New York who were primarily Hispanic unceremonially, with the help of all of Cicalese's undocumented workers. Many people Cicalese carted over from New York to New Jersey died from Covid 19 supposedly.

Picture taken by Karen Brittingham-Edmond Sunday, July 16, 2023

The environmental factors likely affecting aqueducts under the Black-owned cemeteries (Pine Brook, Shadow Rest, and Ruffin Court) are yet to be seen. The N.J. Board of Cemeteries earlier permitted Cicalese and his Middle Eastern business partner to utilize Black-owned cemeteries in Pine Brook, N.J., also known as Tinton Falls. But they ordered the St. Thomas A.M.E. Zion Church and the Ruffin Family Private Cemetery approximately 20 years earlier not to allow any more family members to be buried at the site because the area was considered swamp land. (Like the rest of Monmouth County, NJ.)

I am personally livid about the state of the Ruffin Cemetary in July 2023, where my grandparents and other beloved relatives are buried. As of 2018, I was encouraged by family members to do something about the historic cemetery. Some had heard of my work with Trustee Jones of Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Atlantic Highlands regarding Crystal Stream Cemetery. My work at Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Crystal Stream Cemetery from 2015 to 2017 allowed me to do a little volunteer community organizing that Pastor Smith and most church elders were pleased with. But not the church board.

I worked directly with Mayor Gerard P. Scharfenberger and the Asbury Park Youth Corps under the guidance of Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Pastor Smith and Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Crystal Stream Cemetery Board Trustee Mr. Edward Jones. Who, on a side note, held me as a baby. As the cemetery project proceeded and began to make a difference, The Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church Board threatened to sue me if I continued efforts to care for the historic cemetery located in the historic Black-free town of Riceville, N.J. Where my Brittingham, Carter, Thompson, Stillwell, and Silva Family members, plus dignitaries such as Dr. Bishop Porter Hood, are buried. I brushed off the behavior of Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church Board because most influential board members were not originally from Monmouth County, N.J., and could not relate or sympathize with the many family descendants who repeatedly complained about the state of the Black cemetery. As mentioned, family descendants who complained are the descendants of the original African and native people who either came there or were already residing in the area during the establishment of Riceville in 1830 - 1866. Or the original descendants of Atlantic Highlands that was established in 1887.

Please review the below video featuring Ray Veth of The Historic Landmark Commission, Middletown Mayor Stephanie Murray, & Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church Crystal Stream Cemetery Trustee Mr. Edward Jones, my mentor at Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church. Click link:

Nevertheless, I was made to stop my work at Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Crystal Stream Cemetery in Navesink, N.J. But 2017, I was asked to organize a family gathering with the Rock Richardson Family. In which the family complained about the state of Pine Brook Churchyard. And reaching out to St Thomas A.M.E. Zion in Pine Brook, I found a much nicer group of church leadership who were financially overwhelmed thanks to the divestment and closing of Fort Monmouth. I finally connected with my Bowle family members, whom I never knew, even though some of my children's best friends when they grew up were Bowles.

Above William Elijah's Rock Great-Great Grandchildren & Leroy Rock's Great Grandchildren standing next to their cousin Trustee Bowles and B&K Contractor wearing red and green.

Working voluntarily on improving Pine Brook, Shadow Rest, and Ruffin Cemetary was very rewarding and made a difference. Until Rock family members made it their business this year to slander my name for coordinating resources to assist with the care of the historic cemetery for approximately the last 4 to 5 years. Two male cousins with whom my cousin Carrie Ruffin-Jones had never met, named Norris and Kala, told Carrie I stole all the money I raised over the last four years to care for the cemetery. They even convinced Carrie to go into Reeveytown Church Spring of 2023 and say that I stole all the money from the fundraiser and worked with Cicalese. Reevey Town A.M.E. Zion Church Pastor and St. Thomas A.M.E. Zion Church Trustee Carl Bowles rebuked them and called them liars in the church house.

Above is how Ruffin Cemetery looked when Karen's Cemetary Care Volunteer Project coordinated funds donated by direct family members and Pan-Hellenic Council of Monmouth County's one-time gift of $500 paid to contractor B & K Ground Maintenance of Lincroft N.J. Summer 2022

I was shocked when I witnessed the event on my cell phone with other family members. I am professionally trained in community organizing per a job I previously had with the N.J. Department of Prevention of Child Abuse and Community Partnerships from 2005 to 2007, thanks to Dr. Rev Armstrong, Director of the previously mentioned state department. Plus, Pastor of the historic Shiloh Baptist Church in Trenton, N.J. I also obtained training at Brookdale Community College per my Associate of Science in Human Services and further training in Non-profit Management at Brookdale ATec on the Lincroft campus in New Jersey from 2014 to 2017, after obtaining an Associate of Arts in Public Relations from Brookdale Community College.

This is how Ruffin Cemetery looks as of July 16, 2023, after Director Cari Fais, NJ Board of Cemetery, and LOUIS CICALESE & BARATTA desecrated the site after pressuring Eugene Ruffin to give them access by utilizing Confederate Jim Crow "Laches Law."

I followed the basic steps to advocate for the care of the historic cemetery; where when I initially visited the site ground had up to five to ten inches of leaves carpeting the ground like a shag rug. I knew at that time that the church needed help. So with permission from my family members who attended the family gathering in August of 2018, I submitted a letter of inquiry to St. Thomas A.M.E. Zion Church leadership. Once the letter was accepted, I was invited to visit the church where my Great Grandmother, Cat Richardson Pine Brook Fire House Trustee, and Great Grandfather, William Elijah Rock, publisher of the Echo Press, grew up. It was like coming home to a place I never knew.

I composed two memorandums of understanding for the Rock and Richardson Families. One for in-kind and volunteer donations. The other was for monetary donations. I utilized the principles of transparency so that every donation could be accounted for with oversight and partnership with St. Thomas A.M.E. Zion Church Pastor Bailey and Trustee Carl Bowles. Once establishing the partnership, I reached out to Youth Corps of New Brunswick for volunteers because Asbury Parks Youth Corps only allowed young people at that time to work primarily on cooking and serving food.

Unlike the Youth Corps of New Brunswick, whose students and community worked to acknowledge and re-walk the path that Harriet Tubman and the underground railroad would utilize in New Brunswick, N.J. A Black Republican politician in New Jersey heard what I was trying to do and referred me to Youth Corps leaders. Who, to my surprise, heard of what I was trying to do in 2018 and what I successfully managed to do at Crystal Stream Cemetery in 2015-2016; some students had researched Pine Brook and knew of how Peter Rock assisted the underground railroad by providing his land and home as a safe haven for runaway enslaved people and children to hide in until they could be moved to safer locations in north Jersey such as Jersey City around the location of St. John A.M.E. where both Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglas fellowshipped at and ultimately to Canada.

Above Historic Landmark St. John A.M.E. Jersey City beautiful stain-glass mural of Black Jesus. To learn more of what happened to St. John's click the link:

Although successful in my efforts between 2018 to 2022, as shared in previous write-ups in Echo News TV LLC Blog. Which showed before and after pictures of Cemetarial grounds plus the maintenance person contracted to execute work. When I approached family members in the winter of 2022 to submit donations so that continued care could be given to the land, no one didn't even try to donate money to care for the family cemetery. This was odd because Thanksgiving and Christmas were special times to visit the site for family members coming in from out of state. It was like they already knew of the desecration happening at the cemetery. We experienced a mild winter in 2022. When I visited the cemetery grounds in September, the grounds were trimmed by Phil, my Liberty Tax guy located in Hazlet, N.J. Who had taken a voluntary interest in historic cemeteries that summer of 2022. I bumped into my cousin Carrie Ruffin Jones in December 2022 at Pine Brook Cemetery.

I had not spoken to Carrie for years, and when she told me the story of Mr. Cicalese and how The N.J. Board of Cemeteries utilized a Laches Law, also known as Slumbering Laws, to pressure cousin Eugene Ruffin into allowing them access to land, I was shocked. Carrie arranged a future meeting for me to meet and speak with the neighboring community regarding what was happening at the cemetery grounds on Ruffin Court in Pine Brook, N.J. Carrie said she had been trying to get a lawyer to take her case. She had been working on the trespassing issue of Mr. Cicalese for the last five years at least.

February Neighborhood Rally 2023

After meeting the following week with concerned neighbors who resided near the cemetery, I found that homeowners in the area were primarily White and had access to lawyers. They also sympathized with Carrie and wondered why no family members came out to assist her. Or help her obtain a lawyer? I told community members they would have to advocate for Carrie to obtain a quality lawyer because Monmouth County lacks lawyers of all colors willing to handle Black citizens' tort cases, especially if they are of a certain income. With the advocacy of neighboring community members, Carrie had a quality lawyer within two weeks. Furthermore, Bowles Avenue and Ruffin Court neighbors asked me to encourage family members to visit the cemetery on Sundays to rally together, which I did per Echo News T.V. Blog L.L.C. As more family members showed up, this brought shock and tears at what Cicalese had done to the burial grounds. But this encouraged neighbors because other people besides me and my daughter Ariel Edmond showed up to stand with Carrie and Eugene Ruffin. I also researched Laches Law Policy and found it is a Confederate law that gives people easy access to Black-owned land. I reported my findings to the family, Tinton Falls City Council, and News 12 N.J. Who utilized my reports and updates in the relaunched Echo Press - (Echo News TV LLC.)

February Neighborhood Rally 2023

Tinton Falls City Council put additional pressure on the N.J. Board of Cemeteries and Mr. Cicalese. By April of 2023, I was discouraged from continuing care to historic grounds because certain family members, namely Norris and Kala, lied to Carrie and said I mismanaged donations to the church, she told me to my face that my help was no longer needed. And the same family members were offended that I reported how Mr. Cicalese and Baratta were desecrating historic burial grounds where our grandparents are buried. And that I should not call Cicalese a devil for desecrating family sacred burial grounds. Thankfully other family members, who knew of my work ethic came to me privately to console me. (God is good.).

The reason why historic Pine Brook, Shadow Rest Memorial, and Ruffin Cemeteries must be protected:

The area was a significant stop for the Antebellum Underground Rail Road. Whereas with African, Lenape, plus certain families of Quakers such as the Flemmings Peter Rock I, Quaker grandfather who left his family and fled to Macedonia, also known as Pine Brook NJ, with his grandson Peter. The Flemming family owned the Flemming Indian Plantations throughout N.J. but primarily in Flemming, N.J. Hence Pine Brook, N.J., was a place where a unique group of people (African, Lenape, and certain Quakers) who were opposed to the unethical practice of chattel slavery gathered—and worked together—unlike Quakers such as John Corlies of Scoobey-ville N.J. now renamed Colts Neck N.J.

Former Scoobeyville/Colts Neck slave Titus renamed Tye of the Dunmore's Ethiopian Regiment

John Corlies refused to follow the Monmouth County Quakers' lifestyle that enslaved Africans and Lenapes should "be taught to read and write and be set free at age 21." Corlies did none of these things and was known to be hard on his encaptured slaves, "not sparing the whip." Ultimately, the Quakers would revoke Corlies' membership because of his handling of enslaved people in 1775. As a result of Corlies' unethical and brutal behavior towards Africans and Lenapes, a young man by the name of Titus ran away from Corlies Plantation in Colts Neck, N.J., and joined Dunmore's Ethiopian Regiment, and renamed himself "Tye." Young Tye would become a feared loyalist raider throughout New Jersey with the backing of the throne of England under the reign of King George III and Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. (One of the Black Queens of England who opposed chattel slavery.)

Chattel slavery was a unique practice in North America because it deemed a person an animal simply because a person had color to their skin. The institution of Chattel slavery went against biblical principles clearly outlined in the bible. This is why abolitionists stood on the biblical interpretations of what qualifies a man and not penal colonist or their direct descendants' opinion of what makes a human being a man. (Genesis 1: 27 - 28 K.J.V.) In the original text of the Hebrews, the name "Ben a-dam" is the original term for a man, person, or human being created by God. No caste system is included; hence all people are created equal with indisputable rights as God's creation. The biblical reference was utilized in our American Constitution, which assisted with forming the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments for Black citizens in North America.

Hence the Pine Brook area is rich with untold or under-told American history regarding the abolition of slavery and the story of a nation of people who once resided in the area, namely Lenape, for approximately 3,000 years who were also Black in skin color originally, per documented pictures located in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Pine Brook, Shadow Rest, and Ruffin Privately owned Black Cemetery is the evidence of this rich untold story and needs to be protected and not exploited. Why? Because state officials and real-estate developers' covetous desires to obtain land owned by Black citizens have been averted until now. And these treasonous efforts through gossip, racist harassment, plus the non-truth telling of Black and North American history discourage caring family members from intervening and making a difference.

And the only reason why covetous real-estate developers plus the N.J. Board of Cemetery that utilizes Confederate doctrines are under minding and desecrating Black citizen's ancestral burial grounds in Monmouth County, N.J., and getting away with it is because of certain miseducated somewhat well-to-do Black citizens. Who unawarely assist with exploiting their own people's history, land ownership, plus respect for a couple of dollars. This is another reason critical race theory and the entire American history (the good and the bad) must be taught in our school systems because the lack of truth-telling about Black history here in N.J. leads to people believing a false narrative of the history of New Jersey. And in turn, they fall into the snares of people who hate them for being Black. And hate the Black church for its power to protect its people in times past.

If the truth was told, the indoctrination effort utilized by the Black church leadership that lulls congregants to nonaction is nauseating. And makes one too many black pastors and their boards too heavenly-minded to be any earthly good unless it is to assist Bloomberg New American Economy. It's as if Governor Murphy promised Black leadership and churches in Monmouth County, N.J., a bag of magic beans that don't work. But they're shiny!

All while young Black citizens sit in jail and rot on the pettiest charges with no intervention from the A.C.L.U., for sure, and N.A.A.C.P. since they changed their original mission statement once Rev Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968. The Black church used to be a force nobody wanted to mess with. I received a report of a young Black man who was eaten alive by bed bugs and lice in a popular correctional facility named Northern State Prison in Newark on January 20, 2020. Where with NJ South Woods State Prison located in Bridgeton, buildings are framed out to resemble three Ks when passing over the site in an airplane - apparently on purpose. Let's say that the old Black church would have razed those building brick by brick and set the captives free with their righteous White cousins by their side.

Pictured above is Joshua McMillian star athlete before being found murdered in Northern State Prison Newark, N.J.

But not today. The Black church is in a new age of compliance and nonaction. Thanks to indoctrinated Black leadership that feels more comfortable putting their congregants' feet to the fire for smoking a cigarette or having a beer. But do nothing when our state policymakers and governor re-institute slavery to their Black brothers and sisters who are citizens of these United States. By means of the N.J. Parole Board, mistreatment of citizens' rights by imprisoning Black citizens primarily for seriously petty charges. Or because they couldn't pay a fine. This has happened to Black congregants and their children for 40 years. And Black pastors are wondering why congregants smoke cigarettes and browbeat them instead of opening an old fashion holy ghost rebuke on Governor Phil Murphy's Administration and demanding that our request be met immediately!

Why? Because Black citizens are citizens fair and square. Not want to be citizens entering the country illegally while holding animosity toward current citizens. While receiving minority of color business grants, housing, plus other resources provided by what Bloomberg would call "the old economies" tax dollars who are long-term citizens. What part of treason do these racists and their volunteer allies from outside countries don't understand? These are the people Black institutions and church leadership forgive and are compliant with. While not forgiving their people or children for getting in snared by the enemy's trick of recyclable mass incarceration. It's as if our leaders and institutions have been tricked into the promise of a lobster and steak dinner. When at best, all they'll get is a chicken dinner and a couple of crumbs from the Murphy Administration. That's why the Black community only received crumbs of grants today. It's like in the 1974 movie Claudine when Claudine says to her daughter that the character James Earl Jones plays will be taking her out to a fancy restaurant. And Claudine's daughter's famous quote replies. "Don't come back with chicken on your breath."

New Jersey has government departments, such as The NJ Board of Cemeteries, and H.U.D., who support Jim Crow/Confederate policies to make Black citizens' families homeless, graveyards desecrated, and business advancements, plus investments for Black male and female citizen-owned businesses blocked. (Because you can't get on your feet if you have nowhere to live. Or if you are repeatedly incarcerated for stupid stuff.) Oh yeah, I forgot that Black citizens must give up their seats of advancement for others and move their crisis issues to the back of the bus. Black leadership in Monmouth County, N.J., lacks the courage their ancestors had to address racist issues head-on, knowing that the spirit of truth is on their side.—and demanding respect as their ancestors would do. Instead, this group of Black citizen leadership would instead handout used coats to homeless Black children and their families in Monmouth County, N.J., during the Christmas holiday.

On a side note, I bet that used coat shows the love of Christ at Christmas time. Can't you see homeless Black citizens' children corralled into bedbug-infested motels and hotels. All at the same time, non-vetted non-Black Hispanic and Middle Eastern minorities utilize all of the rights, benefits, and resources that those Black children coraled into overcrowded homeless shelter's ancestors' fought and died for to see them have a better quality of life instead of insourced workers families who are people that support White supremacist viewpoints. Or said Black children were sent to racist foster or group homes to be called the N-word or worse. With no Black adult to protect or advocate for them. It is as if Black children have had no Black men or church in New Jersey for the past 55 years to protect them because their Black. Heck, even James Baldwin, the Black author, spoke up for Black women and children. And he was gay!

Author James Baldwin

Unfortunately, for years N.J. has had Black leadership who believe and depend on the promises of New Jersey Confederate conspirers, who claim future compensation that will never happen. Black citizens of Monmouth County, New Jersey, would have more of a chance of collecting their 5 million dollars each owed reparations than putting all this energy and trust into White racist and non-Black criminal allies like Mr. Cicalese and his Middle Eastern business partner. Who has left Ruffin Cemetery a wreck. And yes, America has the money to pay Black citizens their reparations because we know that the country has spent trillions of dollars on ships that can't sail and airplanes that can't fly. Plus, trillions of dollars in the past 30 years alone on insourced workers and non-vetted immigrants. Black citizens can no longer continue drinking the poisonous Kool-Aid that blatant liars dished out to them over the past 40 years. So Black New Jersey, stop believing the lie that the country our ancestors were forced and abused to build does not have or owe Black citizens money. Stop supporting the lie and treasonous plans of White supremacist-influenced politicians, false White Prophets such as Pat Robinson and his 700 Club, and their non-Black minority allies.

It is time for black citizens of New Jersey to get back on track with the truth unashamedly and be proactive in addressing the atrocities that have befallen our people and children for the last 45 years. Plus, understand that some well-to-do Black leaders have no idea of what they're talking about because of the indoctrination process of the miseducation of the Negro. Remember, adults too are negatively impressed by peer pressure, just like young Black teens with nothing to do thanks to our local recreation departments, who are enticed and seduced by Hispanic gang propaganda that originated with K.K.K. and their Mexican Gang conspirators that sought and managed to infiltrate the same gang propaganda in Black neighborhoods, especially in Chicago in the 1960s. Which then exploded in N.J. throughout the 1980s and 90s, making believe it was a Black culture organic thing. When it was used to influence and misdirect future Black leadership. The first fruits of the Civil Rights Movement plus the Black Power Movement into an early grave, a life of prison, or underachievement in their short life span by design.

History of Gangs in the United States

This is another reason Black citizens face today, not just racism but treason. It's an easy case to prove, but Black institutions are too busy carrying other people's water in hopes of receiving crumbs from Black citizens' inherent enemies. And Black Christians can't use the excuse of "well, we just have to pray for our enemies. That's what God's holy word said." At the same time, ignoring the fact that in the holy scriptures, God has clearly stated to your face that these are your enemies. And that the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy you. (They killed Malcolm, Martin, and Huey, didn't they!)

30 Years Ago Today, Civil Rights Activist Huey Newton Was Killed By Paul Meara August 22, 2019,Black%20activist%20group%20in%20Oakland.&text=On%20August%2022%2C%201989%2C%20Huey,against%20racism%20and%20police%20brutality.

Lastly, per my letter to the public, I am ashamed of allowing the lies and cowardly behavior of Black leadership and Black family members to discourage me from caring for historic burial grounds. Our ancestors buried in Pine Brook do not deserve this horse shit. And neither do other Black cemetery grounds located in Monmouth County, N.J., where the Black elite, Black church, and Black fraternities do little to nothing to intervene on behalf of all Black citizens. Because once again, noncaring Black family members are likely lying or purposely discouraging Black family members who would gladly make a difference if they only knew or were not blocked by misinformation or harassment. While Black institutions and leadership must stop going a whoring to racist state departments, non-profits, and lower government for money they never will get. Or are given crumbs for their compliance in not proactively protecting their people. Crumbs are for the birds, not people. What shame indoctrination and self-denial of critical life issues have done to the miseducated free Negro and his people while holding a Master's degree. While the enemy of their people utilized nothing more than seducing spirits and outright lies. It's time for a change.

By the way, plenty of White citizens see what's going on and want to stand with Black citizens but can't because they'll get attacked by Black leadership who have drunk too much of the Bloomberg New American Economy Kool-Aid in New Jersey. Please enjoy Gospel Choir Voices of Fire and Pharrell Team Up to Spread ‘JOY’

Thanks for reading, and keep the faith!





















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