May 25, 2020, is a day that changed many lives forever. The death of George Floyd brought new life to a movement that had been silenced and disregarded for far too long. The world was on pause and everyone got to witness the current state of society in HD. For some it was shocking and eye opening. For others it was sadly too familiar. But for most, it was the last straw.
The entire summer of 2020 we got active and protested systematic racism and oppression. Thousands of Sussex County residents took to the streets to send a message to the world that we need change and we will make it happen. We marched through Newton, Sparta, Vernon, Andover, and Byram and the people of this county showed that we truly are better when we listen and act with compassion.
As the seasons changed, the community was looking for a way forward. It feels like there is no more tip toeing around this blatant issue; everyone needs to be part of the solution. We know it’s not good enough to be simply “not-racist.”
We are so honored to announce the formation of the H3AL Coalition. This collection of community leaders, church pastors, anti-racist activists and stakeholders in the community will work to carry the torch of the those great civil rights leaders before us. H3AL stands for Highlighting Equality and Equity through Education, Advocacy, and Love.
Black-American author, professor and activist, bell hooks told us “Rarely, if ever, are any of us healed in isolation. Healing is an act of communion.”
By recognizing that antiracist work requires continuous deep self reflection and ongoing commitment, H3AL will serve to facilitate this collective work by providing the tools, information, conversations and a wider, safer container for the sharing of Black-American culture.
The story of racism is not an accusation against the person listening, but a means of communication to acknowledge the wounds and identify the structures we’re all a part of. This active listening works in service of understanding one another so that we can heal and deconstruct the society’s dominant narrative which too often intentionally omits the struggles of marginalized communities, robbing the whole of its collective health.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated in 1963, “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”
The best part of ourselves, families, our county, state and nation is the ability to face hardship with grace and commit to supporting each other in the process. By filling the voids in our collective education we will shine a light so that the dark pain of our history reflecting and impacting our present, will not become our future.
We would like to invite you to our Juneteenth Block Party on the Newton Green, right in our county seat! We will march and demonstrate in honor of last year’s rallies, but also to celebrate Black-American contribution and culture! Mark your calendars for Saturday, June 19, from 11:00 a.m.-3 p.m. Everybody, and we mean everybody, is welcome. See you there!
Please check out our website at www.h3alcoalition.com and on Facebook at facebook.com/h3alcoalition.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated from the original to reflect that it is from the H3AL Coalition as a whole and not from any one of its members.