‘A Call For Peace’ Town Meeting Results in ‘Men’s Coalition,’ Charge That Mayor Is Racist

Visible on the panel at the December 18 “Community Town Hall” are Muhammad Mosque No. 85 Minister Linne Muhammad, New Brunswick Police Det. Jamal James, township resident Benjamin Guy and Township Councilwoman Kimberly Francois (left to right.)

A pledge to create a “men’s coalition” to deal with the problems confronting young black men in the township was the outcome Dec. 18 of a “Community Town Hall” held at the Parkside community room.

The event, moderated by members of the Nation of Islam’s Muhammad Mosque No. 85, headquartered on Hamilton Street, consisted of comments from a panel and then questions and comments from some of the approximately 20-member audience.

There was no mention in the flier advertising the event that it was to be moderated by the NOI, a controversial organization that has been hit with charges of being anti-Semitic, nor was Minister Muhammad’s name listed as being one of the panelists.

The pledge to create a coalition of men was struck between representatives of the mosque and of First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens.

Among those on the panel were Township Councilwoman Kimberly Francois (D-At Large) and Franklin Township Police Sgt. Sean Hebbon. Township Councilman Carl Wright (D-Ward 4) was in the audience.

Many members of the audience were residents of the Parkside senior citizen housing, and expressed concerns about their safety in the Parkside area.

“We need security,” said one resident. “It’s like you’re in prison, you can’t sit outside if you want to.”

“It’s not fair that I have to live in fear,” she said.

Also see: Parkside Senior Residents Lobby For Increased Security

Several residents said they have repeatedly asked the development’s management company, RPM, for security guards, but have been rebuffed.

Hebbon told the crowd that they should call police if they see something that frightens them, especially gang activity.

“People tend to fall back when they see gang activity and forget that it’s their community,” he said. “They expect someone else to fix the problem.”

“It’s just a matter of organizing and being so bold as to say, that ain’t going to go down,” he said.

Township resident Benjamin Guy, one of the event’s organizers, said that the community must come together if there is to be any advancement.

Part of the problem, he said, is that many residents don’t know their neighbors.

“How do you expect to fix something if you don’t know the people you’re supposed to fix it with?” he said. “How are you going to get what you want if you’re not together?”

“It doesn’t take much, it just takes commitment,” he said. “We are committed to nothing.

Although Sgt. Hebbon and others spoke of gang activity in the township, Minister Linne Muhammad of Muhammad Mosque No. 85 rejected the idea of organized gangs in Franklin.

“You’re not looking at Bloods and Crips,” he said, referring to two of the more well-known gangs in the United States. “They may say they are, but they’re not living the creed.”

“Do not think these young men have organized gangs, it’s really not like that,” he said. “The big gangs wear suits and ties.”

Muhammad told a story of how he mediated a dispute between two groups of youths were were shooting at each other in New Brunswick. At the end of the meeting, he said, “everybody hugged.”

“There has to be a place where young people can come and work out their differences,” he said.

He said people must also be found who can speak to the youths, and who the youths will trust.

“But we definitely have to let them know that there is a place where they can come and resolve their differences,” he said.

Also speaking was New Brunswick Police Det. Jamal James and Gina Bowser, whose son, Zakee, was killed in 1997.

Parents should be aware of what their children are doing, Bowser said.

“If you see something, say something,” she said.

Township resident John Tibbs, a member of the Human Relations Commission, capped his comments about the needs of young black men in the township with the charge that, “you’ve got a racist mayor that’s terrible, man,” referring to Mayor Phil Kramer.

Tibbs also said that he is “out in the street, fighting this racist movement and white people and shit.”

Tibbs did not name the “racist movement” he is fighting, but in the past he has claimed that township residents opposing a monument park proposed by Township Councilman Rajiv Prasad are “white racists.”

Referring to another speaker who said he led a local men’s group with 100 members, Tibbs said, “I could take 100 men and turn the town inside out, man, if I had 100 men; 100 black men.”

Tibbs’ remarks did not elicit any comments from anyone in attendance.

The meeting was live streamed by township resident John R. Meyer:

Here at the community town hall. Came to find out what's "wrong" in the community

Posted by John R. Meyer on Tuesday, December 18, 2018



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