With the nation divided and on the verge of civil war, Charles K. Landis founded the town of Vineland in 1861. It would be a utopian village where all people were free to voice their views and practice their beliefs. It was founded on progressive principles for the times. Women’s rights and the abolition of slavery were embraced. Many of Vineland’s early residents were abolitionists, and some had been conductors or had safe houses on the Underground Railroad in other states prior to settling in the new town.
For a historical perspective of the role our region played in the Underground Railroad, read “Springboard to Freedom,” presented by Jane Morton Galetto of CU Maurice River on page 8. The article shows how Cumberland County communities were active in helping slaves escape to the north via the Underground Railroad.
In trying to process the racial injustices that have occurred to fellow human beings recently and in times past, I have imagined myself in another’s shoes. I’ve thought about how scared I’ve felt when I’ve seen a police car in my rearview mirror. Scared I was about to be pulled over and given a ticket. But for others in this free nation of ours, that fear is amplified into a fear that they won’t survive the traffic stop. As a mother, I think of the moms who fear for the lives of their sons—and their fear of losing a daughter who might get caught in the crossfire.
That’s why I was encouraged when I heard about Vineland’s plan to hold a peaceful protest last week at City Hall and along Landis Avenue. I know that since its founding, Vineland has had its missteps along the way regarding racial equality, but I am heartened to see the town realizing and standing on its founding principles.
Be sure to read Associate Editor Ahmad Graves-El’s account of last Wednesday’s protest. Working with and getting to know Ahmad over the last few years has opened my eyes to many things and reading his article, “Peace March,” as well as his commentary on page 7, may open your eyes, too, and give you another perspective.
Someone mentioned to me that he wished the protests and the incident(s) that sparked them would not have converged with our global pandemic. It’s true that the protests are putting social distancing guidelines to the test sooner than we would have liked. And to his point, many more people who want to join in the protests would have if they’d felt safer doing so. This includes many seasoned protesters from the 1960s and ’70s, who are in the COVID-vulnerable population.
But as a person of faith, I believe the fact that these two situations have intersected is right on. We’re all feeling vulnerable in these times, so there is no better time to walk in another’s shoes. We’re all in this together, and we’re in all of this together. Both circumstances involve healing—and depending on each other for survival and support. Both challenge us to be caring and resilient in the face of adversity. Both call on us to be better citizens of our towns, the nation, and the global community.
Be well and keep the faith.