“Looking Back and Moving Forward” is the theme for this year’s Joint Effort Safe Streets Program, which will focus on the historic role of the black church in the Witherspoon-Jackson (W-J) community and will include a rich array of events over a ten-day period, August 4-13.

Sponsored by many Princeton businesses, community leaders, organizations, and citizens, the 2017 program will be held at different locations throughout the Witherspoon-Jackson community, which last year was designated as Princeton’s 20th historic district, and the surrounding area. 

Highlights will include an ecumenical service and salute to the black church; a time capsule ceremony; a critical issues discussion; awards ceremonies for area youth, elected officials, and community leaders; a golf long ball contest; an art and photography exhibit; a book signing and dialogue with Kathryn Watterson; a walking tour; a community concert; a basketball clinic and games; music and other entertainment; workout and conditioning sessions; and more.

“We assemble events and activities that have meaning for the community,” said lead organizer John Bailey. This year’s celebration is the evolution of a program Mr. Bailey originally started more than a decade ago with W-J resident Shirley Satterfield. Principal organizers also include Leighton Newlin, Lance Liverman, Mildred Trotman, Bob Hillier, and others.

“The black church in Princeton — including Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church, First Baptist Church of Princeton, Mt. Pisgah African Methodist Episcopal Church, and Morning Star Church of God in Christ — has a story of faith, leadership, history, and community service and is a treasure trove of events and personalities of the W-J community,” Mr. Bailey stated.

The Joint Effort Princeton Ecumenical Service, to be held at the Miller Chapel of the Princeton Theological Seminary at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, August 6, will recall that story in words and music.

Mr. Bailey, who now lives and works as a political consultant in Denver, has not lived in Princeton since 1975 but returns every summer to lead the Safe Streets Program. “I’ve been away a number of years, but I love this town,” he said. “The town was very good to me. I see the challenges that the community is going through. It’s important to give something back.”

The time capsule ceremony, at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, August 12, will take place on Maclean Street at the Waxwood Apartments, which were formerly a segregated African American school, then served as a junior high school until 1966 when John Witherspoon Middle School was built. The capsule, a metal box, will be buried and remain for 50 years, to be opened in 2067 by residents and future generations of W-J community residents and citizens of Princeton.

Included in the time capsule will be items submitted by the four churches, as well as pictures and other items from African American families of Princeton.

“A Sense of Where We Are and What’s to Come” will be the focus of the critical issues discussions at 1 p.m. on Saturday, August 5 in the Princeton Public Library. Experts, community leaders, educators, and other community residents will be panel leaders for the discussions on the education of black students in Princeton Public Schools, affordable housing, police-community relations, and “Princeton 2037: What Will Our Town Look Like in 20 Years?”

The First Annual Joint Effort Pete Young Sr. Memorial Golf Long Ball Contest, starting at 8 a.m. on Saturday, August 5, will be a benefit fundraiser for the Education Outweighs Them All Foundation and other area community and youth programs.

A youth basketball clinic is scheduled for Friday, August 11 from 9 a.m. to noon on the Community Park courts, and the Pete Young Sr. Memorial Safe Streets Basketball Games will take place all day on Sunday, August 13, also on the CP basketball courts.

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