Good Morning Neighbors!!
Welcome to 2021! We at WeekenderNJ have seen 2020 as a year of solitary contemplation, multiple hardships, tremendous turmoil, lack of leadership, and immeasurable loss. However, we have also noticed signs of hope and optimism that we don't want to ignore, such as courage, creativity, self and community improvement and mutual aid, transformation, growth and opportunity. We choose to start the year by reflecting on a few of the most positive aspects of the past year, ones that would otherwise go down in history as part of one of the worst years on record in many of our lifetimes.
Illustration by J. Longo
Since our launch in October 2020, we have created an independent media community outlet that works to accurately reflect the people, the culture, the spirit and the passion of great New Jersey neighborhoods, with vibrant communities, focused on authentic, relevant and informative news coverage, building a strong foundation in line with our core editorial interests. With the awareness that together we can create a better society and more sustainable environment, we are committed to providing a voice to people who aspire to make our community better, help develop connections with these people, and report on important issues, always striving to stand with the community to defend it against those powerful forces that would seek to destroy what makes our neighborhoods so special.
Starting with our first issue in 2021, we will look at our state, country, home planet, and under-the-radar everyday individuals, community leaders, and organizations who don't get enough credit for what they contribute to making our communities a better place to live.
We are engaging with our neighbors and community leaders and will ask experts to chime in from time to time on the social justice issues in our state, nation and our world. In-depth coverage, as in reporting and diving in behind the story, telling our readers what they want – and need to know. We will strive to be an important part of the community’s culture, and report on issues that make a difference in our readers’ neighborhoods – and their lives.
We will strive to feature stories in WeekenderNJ that you’ll find nowhere else. And if we follow the ‘news,’ we’ll always try to have our own angle or take the story further. We’ll cover what we want, and where we want, but our home state will remain the base.
The corporate mass media filtered the full truth and gave up on whatever ethics and morals they had left. Public servants behaved as superstars, declining to listen or represent their constituents, and refusing to respond to independent media when asked for comment. Most celebrities were tweeting from their Million dollar mansions, showing how out of contact with the poor struggling working class they were. And corporate controlled media provided misleading information and showcased how amazing it is to be elderly, without savings, or health insurance and deliver pizza amidst a deadly pandemic without a cure (this was one of the stories where we all collectively cursed anchors with $600+ haircuts on social media.) as their #BeKind story series. Corporate media left out the people who work behind the scenes, without whom we would not have a working community. On the front line: Emergency response workers, teachers, farmworkers, food service workers, IT, activists, candidates running for office, immigrants who do so much for our society, yet we as Americans do so little for them. The list is long. And let’s not forget the people considered ‘essential workers’ that deserve our gratitude and recognition and a livable wage and health care.
There was unexpected bravery, too. Dr Li Wenliang, a 34-year-old ophthalmologist and whistleblower in Wuhan, China was an unlikely hero to whom the world owes gratitude for his courageous act of speaking out to warn us in the face of a communist republic. He was the first to issue warnings to the planet about Cov-19. Tragically, he would later die from Covid-19.
As we look through the list of individuals and organizations of importance in our state, there is no doubt that New Jersey is home to some exceptional individuals. Being able to carry this list to WeekenderNJ's January 2021 edition is something that we are all deeply motivated, honored and grateful for.
We will look forward to adding to this list from this point forward, because it helps put faces on the success of our state, nation, and home planet.
New Jersey is a state grounded in new and old relationships and networks of people. We wouldn’t want to be anywhere else!
We are hopeful and confident that we all have what it takes to create positive changes in our communities.
Here is to a brighter year ahead. Stay safe. Stay healthy. Let’s make 2021 a year of positive changes!
Afşar Arda, Documentary Filmmaker/Photographer
Anthony Diaz - has shown the power community organizing can have to empower community members. As the co-founder of Newark Water Coalition, Díaz has helped bring clean water to so many Newark Residents still suffering from Newark's lead crisis. His dedication led to getting a water box in the Ironbound section of the Newark community this year that has served so many residents who otherwise still would lack clean water.
Charlie Kratovil - community organizer and the founder and editor of local news outlet New Brunswick Today.
Chris Smalls - “Shut down Amazon”
DIRE (Deportation and Immigration Response Equipo)
Dr Li Wenliang, a 34 year Ophthalmologist, and whistleblower in the Chinese City of Wuhan. He gave the world the first warnings about Cov-19. He would later die from Cov-19.
Emily Gil - her small protest highlighted lack of affordable housing in Englewood Cliffs which has been in litigation for years. This small protest brought media attention when the Mayor fined her $2500 for the protest. Pressure from the community caused the Mayor to rescind the fine. Shortly thereafter, the town finally agreed to build affordable housing units in Englewood Cliffs, NJ.
Eric Tars, Esq., legal director of National Law Homelessness Center
Hector Oseguera, Esq., nominated for the NNJC Social Justice Award Hunterdon County Anti-Racism Coalition
Jay Sobers - effective organizer in Bergen County, founder and head admin of BLMBergenCounty.
Julian Leshay, Visual Storyteller - Photographer - vividly documenting the social justice movement with photographs from NJ, NY, DC, and PA, which are shared widely.
Kasson Little, impactful livestreams on social justice and helpful information on COVID as a front-line healthcare worker
Lawrence 'Larry' Hamm, Activist, Founder and Chairman of the People’s Organization for Progress.
Madelyn Hoffman, seasoned activist, was director of the Grass-Roots Environmental Organization and Director of New Jersey Peace Action.
Mark Apolloa, Director/Organizer and
founding member of OWS SPAG based in New York City
Na Lekan Masego - The following day after being trampled upon by a car who drove into ICE protestors in NYC, he nonetheless showed up in crutches for the ICE protest in Bergen County, NJ.
New Jersey Advocates for Immigrant Detainees
New Jersey State Industrial Union Council
Ricci Sergienko, activist, organizer Sunrise Movement Los Angeles, People’s City Council
Zellie Thomas - dedicated to his community of Paterson and beyond, he has rallied crowds for actions across Northern New Jersey, inspiring everyone to work toward social justice. Also distributes much needed meals to seniors that they may not have otherwise received during the pandemic.
This article was amended on March 23rd, 2021 to add a new leader.
Editor’s Note: A great part of our success will hinge on the community’s support and engagement. Please feel free to pitch your news tips and story ideas to us set to frame and motivate our neighbors and businesses to evoke change. No matter how small. We want to know your personal journeys and business milestones, too. Send us your thoughts, ideas or let us help you tell your story. You can reach us via our WeekenderNJ.com online form.
And if you are interested in contributing - whether writing, photographing, or anything else, let us know as well.