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  • Writer's pictureKaren Brittingham-Edmond

Wealth Disparity Task Force Visits Asbury Park Dec12 To Get Community Input In Regards To Wealth Gap

Updated: Dec 18, 2022

The Wealth Disparity Task Force met with Monmouth County, NJ, Black leadership, community members, and the press on Dec 12, 2022, at the Second Baptist Church on 124 Atkins Ave Asbury Park, NJ. Community members began flowing in approximately at 6:00 P.M. The Wealth Disparity Task Force led by Director Jayne' J. Johnson openly greeted and welcomed attendees with a member of her office plus a Latino Action Network representative.

The Wealth Disparity Task Force Director Jayne' J. Johnson

Latino Action Network rep (L.A.N.) advised attendees that "the task force must submit recommendations by March 2023. This means they must begin drafting the recommendation report starting Jan 2023, seeking ways to diminish the wealth disparities happening to Black & Brown residents in New Jersey." L.A.N. representative also informed attendees that her organization is highly influential with the Wealth Disparity Task Force. Furthermore, we can reach out to her if we have questions.

Cuqui Rivera Latino Action Network hugged up with Governor Murphy on Dec 8, 2022

The meeting was initiated at approximately 6:15 P.M. Johnson quoted the mission of the Wealth Disparity Task Force: "To build a stronger, fairer, and more equitable New Jersey.” She further shared that Governor Philip D. Murphy established the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (Office of Equity), which seeks "to advance equity for New Jerseyans who have been left behind for far too long."

“We cannot have a stronger and fairer New Jersey without examining the causes of our wealth gaps and without establishing strategies to combat this long-standing problem. I look forward to working with the Wealth Disparity Task Force and continuing our Administration’s efforts to create an economy that works for every New Jerseyan.” – Governor Phil Murphy. Press Release September 14, 2021.

2nd Baptist Church Asbury Park NJ

Wealth Disparity Task Force Director Johnson arranged a meeting to be held at Second Baptist Church in Asbury Park, N.J. She reached out to Affordable Housing Coalition (A.H.C.) representative Mr. Tracey Rodgers. Rodgers advocacy group (the A.H.C.) has been seeking answers regarding Asbury Park's $2 million mismanaged housing funds & Jim Crow preferential leasing practices experienced by citizens primarily in the city. Rodgers also is on the board of education for the city of Asbury Park. Rodgers thanked Johnson and her team publicly. Then addressed attendees on why this window of opportunity can bring about crucial changes for disenfranchised and discriminated citizens.

  • Tracey Rodgers, Asbury Park Board of Education Member & The Affordable Housing Coalition Member

Felecia, Simmons president of the Westside Community Center, chimed in to encourage attendees that working with the Wealth Disparity Task Force might provide struggling community members, plus historic Westside Community Center, much-needed monetary support. So that Westside can begin to serve community members again.

Black Monmouth County Leadership & Community Members introduced themselves.

  • Tracey Rodgers, Asbury Park Board of Education member & The Affordable Housing Coalition Member of Asbury Park

  • Myra Campell the first female African-American Mayor of Asbury Park.

  • Sister Isis, Founder of "Save Our Asbury Kids." Asbury Park

  • Felicia Simmons, Director of the Westside Community Center of Asbury Park, President of National Action Network Asbury & Neptune Branch, N.A.A.C.P., 2x elected Asbury Park Board of Education Member

  • Redmond Palmer, former Asbury Park Board President & Affordable Housing Coalition Member

  • Karen Brittingham-Edmond Publisher/Editor of the relaunched Echo, N.J.'s oldest Black-owned NJ newspaper, rebranded as Echo News TV LLC. Keansburg

  • Dianna Harris, President of The Midtown Urban Renaissance Corporation 501c3. Neptune

  • Charles Trott Arts Educator & Creator of The Diasporic Images of Africa Project Asbury Park.

  • Duane Small Black Contractor Asbury Park

  • Anastasia Taylor, Journalism Student at Brookdale Community College of Asbury Park

  • Mr. Diaz of the Asbury Park Press

  • Tiffany Durant of Radio 8 Squad Rebel Radio

  • Nafeesah Goldsmith, President of the Youth Function Over Form, a 501C3 organization focused on creating prison-free futures for our youth. Cliffwood

  • Mary Scott Educator and Monmouth Ocean County Pan Hellenic Council Member Neptune

(By the way: So much good feedback was given at this particular meeting of a government task force, plus community members and representatives. The relaunched Echo could only put some of the feedback given in this little article. Let’s continue.)

All the above participants shared willingly and were a part of the conversation, including local business owners and residents. Johnson explained to the attendees that this unique forum would provide her team with the vital information needed to present to the Wealth Disparity Task Force Committee in Trenton N.J. Johnson, the director of The Wealth Disparity Task Force, encouraged attendees to provide suggestions of what they think could resolve the economic inequalities that have seemed to stratify overwhelming Black citizens & their peers.

Johnson clearly stated that this meeting was not a promise of monetary resources. Nevertheless, it is a bridge of communication by which community members' concerns and ideals can be shared with the task force. Johnson then shared a short video where attendees heard directly from Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, plus John Harmon of the African American Chambers of Commerce. All representatives on video encourage attendees to state what they think will help struggling Black & Brown community members and that they look forward to the public's feedback.

Myra Campell, the first Black female Mayor of Asbury Park

The attendees were invited to share who they were and the organization or agency they were affiliated with. Myra Campell, the first Black female Mayor of Asbury Park, introduced herself. Furthermore, she pointed out to the task force how the City of Asbury Park Administration has off-putting mannerisms regarding acknowledging the concerns of Black citizens. In addition, Campell suggested that some training should be required to reduce said behavior. This way, said the administration might be more willing to respect and assist Black & Brown residents. Then the 1st Black female Mayor of Asbury Park gave, for example, how when the city had its 100 yrs of Asbury Park's history celebration, she was not mentioned at all in the report. Snubbed publicly. Campell provided the perfect example of discriminatory behavior towards her as a Black mayor, which suggests that if they treat an ex-mayor like this, how are they treating Black citizens up close and personally?

Karen Brittingham-Edmond Relaunched Echo Publisher Editor - Great Granddaughter of Mr. William Elijah Rock Echo Founder 1904 - Lenni Lenape direct descendant Pine Brook/Tinton Falls N.J.

Karen Brittingham Edmond of The Relaunched Echo suggested that Black code credit checks and preferential leasing practices of mixed-income housing units and projects must be removed immediately. Edmond said that blocked housing had led too many Black and a portion of White families into homelessness for no reason except that they were discriminated against. HUD helped and did nothing to intervene or call the Jim Crow-Black Code what it is. An old tactic to discriminate against Black citizens in housing. Edmond stated that struggling citizens should never have to take a credit check for a project, affordable, or subsidized housing. Edmond worked for the Long Branch Housing Authority for approximately five years before giving birth to twins. Plus initiated a program called “Project Hope in Long Branch N.J.” that benefited children in partnership with Aslan Youth Ministry to save The Bucky James Community Center. Edmond stated that project housing did not include credit checks because of long-term systematic & structural racism that affects our society's economic state. Edmond shared that the preferential leasing policies happening in Monmouth County are a crisis issue affecting citizenship, especially Black children, in a blatant and unfair manner which is criminal.

1904 copy of The Echo

Edmond claimed that liberal racists, along with conservative racists, are in partnership with non-Black special interest groups seeking to create a new economy that eliminates or drives out Black citizens utilizing displacement, and mass incarceration, plus blocked or divested funds for Black businesses, nonprofits, and contractors. Edmond also shared that black citizens lack access to quality lawyers. Likewise, because of the lack of non-racist legal representation, Black citizens receive lousy settlements for their valid tort cases. Or alternatively, nothing at all because of a time game that lawyers utilize to ensure the disenfranchisement of Black citizens. Edmond suggests removing Jim Crow preferential leasing policies. Supporting the re-establishment of The Echo newspaper that can create jobs. Plus, compensating discriminated citizens seeking subsidized or project housing will empower community members and help close the wealth gap.

Nafeesah Goldsmith, President of the Youth Function Over Form, ACLU Fellow

Nafeesah Goldsmith, President of the Youth Function Over Form, shared her story of incarceration and how she advocated for and utilized in-house prison higher learning training. When she was released from prison, Goldsmith had a bachelor's degree. The bachelor's degree soon turned into a master's degree, which motivated Goldsmith to launch a Youth Function Form Prison Prevention Services for youth and young adults. Plus stated that higher education opportunities make a difference in at risk kids and adults vulnerable to prison or in prison. Furthermore, Goldsmith shared that “our kids are up for the challenge if given the opportunity” Hence Goldsmith is asking that funding culturally sensitive programs like hers can help future generations, which could positively affect the Wealth Disparity Gap in NJ.

Goldsmith shares why solitary confinement must end in N.J.

A senior attendee affiliated with SEOC (Statewide Education Organizing Committee), an organization that helps parents when they see disparities in their children's education. ( Thanked Rodgers for alerting her of this very important meeting. She stated that she was here to advocate for her fellow senior citizens and clearly stated that seniors who reside in the senior apartment complexes need social service substations in their buildings. She stated that the substations could operate once a week. She further expressed that having access quickly from the department of social services or other senior organizations can help seniors share their concerns and be informed of what resources and wrap-around services are available for seniors. She further shared that many senior citizens do not have transportation & are unable to access a social worker. Seniors also may need someone to help them with their housing applications. She then gave us a couple of real-life scenarios to explain why Social Service Substations can help close the wealth disparities gap regarding seniors.

For example, E-Z Ride Transportation resources stopped after the COVID-19 Pandemic ended. E-Z Ride was a program funded by grants. For some reason, the grants were not renewed & now there is a population of senior citizens without transportation. So if a substation were brought in from social services to hear seniors' concerns or even inform them about an alternative transportation resource, that would help them immensely. She further shared instances when the elevator was out, and no one alerted seniors about the situation. Said stated that the non-communication puts unneeded stress on the senior population. Some seniors live in apartment complexes that are at least 20 floors high. She reinforced the suggestion to provide seniors with social services substations that address housing, and health care insurance and communicate what resources are available to them can positively assist with closing the wealth disparity gap for seniors.

Ms. Puryear, a direct descendant of Sandhill Indians, shared that her people have been here since the 1800s. She confirmed the senior citizen's story of frustration because her brother resides in a senior complex in Asbury Park, where he experienced a power outage in his apt complex. Puryear's brother cannot walk and rides his mobile scoot-about to get around. Puryear shared that he could not get downstairs, plus the apartment complex did not alert said seniors that a Blackout would occur or when electricity would be turned back on. Puryear stated, "this is very frightening when disabled people who have difficulty walking are stranded in the dark with no way of getting downstairs because the elevator is not working.” Puryear, a seasoned educator, then shared her opinion that the teaching system frankly in Neptune and Asbury Park is not up to par when providing services to Black & Brown youth.

Furthermore, Puryear shared, parents struggle to navigate a biased teaching system that cannot relate or empathize with children of color. She said she knows this from personal experience with raising her own children in the Neptune School System. Puryear also shared an incident where a school counselor discouraged Black children from attending college. This statement moved the crowd because these were the same expressions that racist teachers and student counselors would say in the 50s, 60s & 70s. Puryear shared that she registered voters with Felecia Simmons this year. Moreover, although there was a slight increase in Black voter participation, many Black citizens in Neptune & Asbury Park, NJ, did not vote because they were discouraged because of all the extra hassles they have to deal with for being Black in Monmouth County, N.J.

Mr. Charles Trott, Art Educator & Asbury Park Resident

Charles Trott, a retired art educator for children K - 12th grade. Created a unique project named "Diasporic Images Of Africa." Trott shared the need for an art program to provide a learning atmosphere so children can better understand and appreciate their culture and others via a culturally sensitive arts program. Trott shared that his participants are primarily Black & Hispanic children. However, although most could identify Africa on a map, there were many other countries youth participants could not identify on a map.

Trott In Action Drawing A Mural.

Along with adults, such as in Japan, China, and South America. Trott said that non-knowledge shared by school-aged children reflects what children are taught in history classes. Trott firmly said, "If you are going to teach history, you must teach culture." Trott further emphasized, "how can you teach children about history and not include the culture of the history you're teaching!" Trott concluded that there would be no real learning in that classroom, leading to miscommunication or ignorance of school children about themselves and others. This is why he feels that having culturally sensitive art programs is another way to even the playing field regarding education in the wealth disparity gap.

John Luke shared that the non-ownership of homes is a primary factor that disenfranchises Black citizens and communities. Moreover, a homestead program should be initiated for systematically discriminated against and disenfranchised citizens. Housing instability significantly stresses families and causes unnecessary cognitive issues for Black children because of Jim Crow policies or Redlining regarding housing. Since landlords do not want to rent to Black citizens and prefer undocumented renters, initiate a homestead program so families can have a stable place to raise children securely. Luke suggested that a citizen homestead program can help close the wealth disparity gap in N.J.

Remond Palmer (L) with fellow advocates Carre and Tracey Rodgers (R)

Remond Palmer, a lifelong resident of the city of Asbury Park who is a former firefighter and former Asbury Park Board of Education President. Who initiated the November Elections concept in Asbury Park (because Asbury Park voters had to vote in May until Palmer advocated for changing voting month from May to November. So that Asbury Park voters could vote with the rest of America.) Shared his story of public discrimination and concern for Black renters. Palmer explained how the chances of winning his bid to be mayor of Asbury Park in 2014 were circumvented when The Monmouth County Board of Elections "threw out 300 and something Black votes for Palmer." Palmer contended with two lawsuits against the county's board of election as well as with Moor, who was later confirmed as Asbury Park's Mayor in 2015. Palmer a member of the A. H.C. (Affordable Housing Alliance of Asbury Park,) confirmed that Black citizens are systematically being blocked from housing and pushed out of the neighborhoods they grew up in.

Duane Small, a Black contractor, expressed to the wealth disparity task force, a variety of discriminatory practices that contribute directly to the disenfranchisement of Black citizenship. From being blocked from contracts to not being able to secure a place to live. Small’s then shared that the ongoing negative behavior of racism towards Black constituents happens because democrats that Black citizens vote for are as useless as the republican racist. Attendees agreed with him wholeheartedly that democratic politicians are worthless to Black voters here in Monmouth County NJ. Small’s shared that democrats prefer to build a new economy with people who have broken federal laws than be square and helpful to the Black citizens who voted them into offices repeatedly. Smalls stated that Black citizens were being systematically pushed out of the city. And no one has come to advocate on behalf of citizens. Furthermore, landlords are not even trying to rent to Black citizens as if prearranged.

Small’s said moreover, these real estate plus urban redevelopment businesses bring in undocumented populations to work for them as if this is not against federal laws. Smalls reiterated to the Wealth Disparity Task Force that "purposely blocking economic & housing opportunities for Black citizenship, especially, is wrong & sueable.” This is what is assisting with the wealth disparity of vulnerable disenfranchised Black citizens & their peers. This, in turn, hinders our progress. In closing, Small's strongly suggested that equal opportunity housing practices must be enforced for Black citizens and their peers. Furthermore, Black contractors need to be given separate contract opportunities equal to their White and Hispanic peers so that contract opportunities can be accessible to Black businessmen who are citizens. At this time attendees repeatedly referred to the failure of Interfaith Neighbors when it comes to an affordable housing project that is not affordable by the least or accessible to Black citizens or work for Black contractors on the most part. (There’s always the exception but that is not the norm.)

Smalls further shared that he is a contractor. And explained that he, as a Black contractor, cannot obtain contracts or even work most of the time because the contracts are given to people from outside Asbury Park, NJ. And these builders were bringing their own insource workers, primarily undocumented and their families. And this is why the city & county is experiencing overcrowding, blocked job opportunities, and life-saving resources such as housing, where Black citizens grew up. Smalls stated that even though H.U.D. Section 3 states that contractors who win bids from the city and county must hire legal minority citizens, and not illegal minority groups brought in to replace Black citizens must be stopped. Small words plus other attendees' testimonies reveal a type of seditious war being leveled against Black citizenship by racist, non-profits, and other countries. Outside of the United States.

Phil Murphy signed a bill to give 460,000 licenses to undocumented immigrants who broke federal laws after NJ racial profiling for 20 years of Black drivers in NJ being given mandatory fines plus licenses taken away for driving to work. Plus 53 Million Dollars for undocumented

Nevertheless, despite his own personal challenges, Smalls decided to be a self-employed contractor, and he shared that the city of Asbury Park made him jump through all kinds of hoops as a Black contractor. He had to have a license, insurance, and other mandatory things. To make a long story short, the mayor of Asbury Park called Smalls and he told him that if he “keeps talking about purposeful illegal actions and discrimination tactics that the city of Asbury & Interfaith Neighbor & developers have done to Black citizens, they will sue him for telling the truth.” The crowd gasped. Smalls then shared that what makes matters worse is that "Governor Phil Murphy recently changed the law that contractors do not have to have business licenses." That further assists non-documented workers and contractors to continue to block job opportunities for Black citizens who are carpenters, plumbers, and electricians.

Mrs. Johnson's of the Wealth Disparity Taskforce face looked downcast by this time. While a Hispanic representative of The Latino National Action organization repeatedly tried to engage with the attendees, Mr. Smalls then exclaimed that this is why Black registered voters do not vote. Smalls strongly suggested a moratorium on all grants coming to the city until Black citizenship is compensated, included, and allocated funding, plus equal access to housing without Black codes. He believes that this will help close the wealth disparity in the area.

Smalls then claimed that approximately two overdoses a day in Asbury Park recently happened, plus young Black people have gotten shot in the head, and it is not being reported in the paper or Channel 12 news. Smalls felt that everything was just out of order. He even shared that the community cannot obtain vegetables from the community garden because the nonprofit restaurant, another Interfaith Neighbor and Youth Corps affiliation, sells vegetables to local businesses and restaurants. Felecia Simmons of the Westside Community Center confirmed that the vegetables are supposed to be for the community & not a nonprofit product for an agency.

The Midtown Urban Renaissance Corporation 501c3 President Dianna Harris

MURC President Dianna Harris and her brother Mr. Harris are both educators, gave excellent feedback, and shared that educational reforms must be implemented and teachers must be held accountable. Furthermore, all children who participate in our public & charter school systems must be treated and taught with the utmost respect. Mr. Harris and his wife shared a heart-wrenching share regarding their son riding his bike home from work. Moreover, how Asbury Park Police officers attacked him for no reason except that he was riding his bicycle while Black. The crowd gasped. Per Harris, making sure that culturally sensitive enrichment wrap-around services were available for our young people could help vulnerable Black children to be nurtured and valued, which may lead to obtaining higher education and college so they can qualify for better-paying jobs or open a business with a degree in their pocket. Plus, avoid the cradle-to-prison pipeline.

Felecia Simmons, Director of the Westside Community Center

Last but not least, Felecia Simmons, Director of the Westside Community Center, expressed the need for Black citizens' grants to be allocated to Black nonprofits. Per her experience, White nonprofits have a problem sharing the monetary resources equally with Black citizens and Black nonprofits. They prefer to control the money themselves, said Simmons, and not include Black nonprofits and organizations with funds. Even though, per Simmons, some grants require equal distribution of funds and opportunities to minority organizations. Simmons said that this is why the Westside Community Center is in its current state. Making matters worse, grantmakers are trending to write grant guidelines that leave Black citizens out of the loop of resources by design. Hence, per Simmons, it is vital that we quickly provide an avenue where funding sources can be received without interference from White led nonprofit organizations. Who has a history in Monmouth County, NJ, of disenfranchising or ignoring or holding a bias toward the need of the Black community members when it is time for grant disbursements. Simmons shared that the Westside Community Center, a building that a Black doctor named Parker donated to the children of Asbury Park that's gym was built by Tuskegee Airmen, is a part of our Monmouth County Black history story.

Westside Community Center Asbury Park N.J.

Simmons said that the historical building needed a new roof like yesterday. So she believes that having a Black nonprofit organization (who does not hate their own people) allocated to disburse grant funding designated to citizenship is essential to closing the wealth disparity gap. Because now Black citizens would not miss out on investment and job creation efforts that grant usage could build. Every attendee agreed with Simmons. Simmons further stated that the same old process of giving funding to White female-led or White minority-led nonprofits has a track record of non-inclusion toward Black people unless they are whom they deem as good. More than often, it leaves Black citizens out because of the grudge against citizens for the success of the civil rights movement plus affirmative action policies. As well as their erroneous implicit or explicit belief system of who and what Black people are.

The meeting ended at approximately 8:40 P.M. All attendees were cordial but serious about wanting to see change happen in their communities.

In conclusion, the Wealth Disparity Task Force, led by Jayne' Johnson, was respectful and empathetic toward attendees. Furthermore, Johnson shared that attendees should encourage other community members who have identified an ongoing issue and have an idea on how to resolve it to visit the Wealth Disparity Task Force site to share their input on closing the Wealth Disparity Gap here in N.J. click or copy and paste link below.

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