EAST BRUNSWICK – The Unitarian Society congregation in East Brunswick has been chosen to receive this year’s Congregational Society Justice Bennett Award from the international Unitarian Universalist Association for its work on the Lost Souls Public Memorial Project, which aims to build a memorial to the victims of an area slave ring.
“The award panel was moved by the Lost Souls Memorial Project, the partnerships you are building through it, the community outreach and engagement—including with youth—and your dedication to prophetic truth-telling,” Susan Leslie, of the UUA Organizing Strategy Team, said in a letter to the congregation’s minister, Rev. Karen G. Johnston.
A Recitation of Names and Poetry Reading in support of the project is planned for 7-9 p.m. May 22 at Baker’s Barn, 93 Church Lane, East Brunswick. Guest speaker is Glenis Redmond, State Theatre NJ Poet-in-Residence. Tickets are $60-$100 and can be purchased online through Eventbrite.
Historical records show that, in 1818, Middlesex County Judge Jacob Van Wickle cooperated with a ring that sent nearly 180 African Americans into slavery in the south. That year, four ships carrying African Americans left New Jersey between February and October. New Jersey had started gradual abolition on July 4, 1804, so some of these people were already free and the rest lost their chance at freedom. The names of 138 are currently known; an additional 39 are known to have existed, but their names are currently lost, according to the statement.
Along with other individuals and organizations, including the New Brunswick Area Branch of the NAACP, and the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, members of the congregation have been working to build awareness and raise funds for the project. Mayor Brad J. Cohen plans to announce at the May 22 event a commitment to site the memorial in East Brunswick.
For more information, visit www.unitariansociety.org.