Juneteenth talk in Morristown examines gentrification and social justice

Panelists discuss gentrification at Juneteenth event in Morristown, June 8, 2019. From left: Moderator Leslie Harris, activist Larry Hamm, historian Betty Livingston Adams, attorney Kisha Pinnock and Pastor David Smazik of the Presbyterian Church in Morristown. Photo by Hannah Rose Williams
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By Hannah Rose Williams

Is gentrification inevitable?

A panel of activists, historians and clergy members tackled the question during a discussion about race and equality at Morris County’s seventh annual Juneteenth celebration.

Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. Last weekend’s activities in Morristown included readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, a procession from a Civil War re-enactment at Historic Speedwell to the Morristown Green, and musical performances.

Deejay John Butler, right, with performers at Juneteenth celebration on the Morristown Green, June 8, 2019. Photo courtesy of Karol Ruiz.

The Sankofa Heritage Collective of Morris County and the Morris County Tourism Bureau aimed to expand the scope of this year’s events, to commemorate freedom for all people and the historical contributions of African Americans in Morris County, according to organizers.

Participants included the NAACP of Morris County, Morristown’s Bethel A.M.E. Church, the Presbyterian Church of Morristown, Historic Speedwell, the Hyatt Regency, the Iron Bar, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, and the Alpha Kappa Alpha and Delta Sigma Theta Sororities.

Pastor David Smazik, attorney Kisha Pinnock, activist Larry Hamm and historian Betty Livingston Adams comprised the panel in the Presbyterian Church chapel.

Gentrification, Pinnock said, “is when you have outsiders come into communities and push out long term residents.”

“We have not accepted that we have a chronic housing problem and we fail to recognize that gentrification is structured racism and discrimination,” said Adams.

Panel moderator Leslie Harris asked how gentrification happens, and how neighborhoods can avoid it.

Panelists concluded that gentrification is not inevitable — if communities remain vigilant.

Correspondent Hannah Rose Williams is a rising sophomore at the Morristown-Beard School.

People mingle on the Morristown Green during Juneteenth celebration, June 8, 2019. Photo courtesy of Karol Ruiz

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