#b#Proud of Paul Robeson#/b#
On April 5 my husband and I had the privilege of attending the Paul Robeson lecture at Rutgers and hearing the renowned performer and activist Harry Belafonte in conversation with Robeson’s granddaughter, the documentary filmmaker and producer Susan Robeson. Their stories impressed upon me how thoroughly and deliberately Paul Robeson was erased from the public consciousness for his audacity, particularly as a black man, to use his celebrity and international venues to speak out against racism in the United States and colonialism throughout the world. Unfortunately, in Princeton we have also allowed ignorance of Robeson’s life and contributions to persist in his hometown.
We need to bring more attention to Paul Robeson in Princeton schools and civic life. Fortunately, the Robeson House of Princeton, a 501(c)3 non-profit, is dedicated to restoring the Robeson house and to publicizing his amazing accomplishments. Our community needs to support their restoration of his birthplace as well as take other steps:
1. Send checks made out to Paul Robeson House of Princeton to 112 Witherspoon Street, Princeton, NJ 08540.
2. Attend events celebrating him, like the birthday commemoration that took place at the Arts Council on April 9.
3. Emphasize his biography, performances, and writings in the Princeton schools, especially in Princeton and U.S. history classes.
Princeton should be proud to have Paul Robeson as a native son. Acknowledging the mistreatment of the man and his family needs to be part of the town’s and the nation’s truth and reconciliation efforts in coming to terms with racism. Honoring his courage and resolution must be part of our celebration.
#b#To Attract Jobs, Add More Housing#/b#
In December of last year, the pharmaceutical giant Bristol Myers-Squibb announced plans to close its 433-acre Hopewell campus, which employs 1,250 people. As a commercial broker, I know that this is partially the result of an inability to attract a skilled workforce to the area. This problem is especially acute among millennials due to a jobs-to-housing imbalance that has been cited by PlanSmart NJ and the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce.
The project recently proposed by the Howard Hughes Corporation in West Windsor would go a long towards reducing this imbalance. For instance, this project would provide residents at all stages of their lives and with a range of incomes a variety of housing options to meet their needs. This project will also create a live, work, and play environment within walking and biking distance to additional commercial and retail uses.
If we want to maintain the Route 1 corridor’s competitive advantage as a geographic location, we need to provide the necessary development and infrastructure to support this growth. The Howard Hughes Corporation’s project could serve as an integral part of this solution.
CEO, Mercer Oak Realty, Ewing
#b#Chris Smith, Enabler#/b#
Voters in Congressman Chris Smith’s Fourth District should know that he has become an enabler of Russian dictator Putin’s policies. Together with a clique of ultra-conservative Republicans, he is engaged in a campaign to discredit the democracy-building work of the Soros Foundations in the Balkans. On January 17 Smith and five others wrote a letter to the U.S. ambassador in Macedonia accusing him of favoring the moderate left-of-center party, which is involved in a bitter political dispute with a nationalist, Russia-leaning, hard-right party concerning, among other matters, the unprecedented levels of corruption and the complex relations between ethnic Macedonians and minority Albanians in that diverse country.
Not satisfied with the State Department’s reply, they have demanded that the Government Accountability Office investigate USAID funding for the Soros Open Society Foundations on the grounds that they favor left-leaning groups. This is a completely bogus charge.
For three years beginning in 2003, I chaired roundtable meetings among the leaders of Macedonia’s political parties. They were organized by the Project on Ethnic Relations, a non-governmental organization based in Princeton of which I was then president. Their purpose was to help with the implementation of the 2001 Ohrid Agreement, the peace deal that had been signed by Macedonia’s four main ethnic Macedonian and Albanian political parties following an armed conflict.
The Soros Foundation was not involved in that effort, but I was well aware of its good work in promoting democracy and the development of civic society in Macedonia, much as it has done elsewhere in Eastern Europe following the collapse of Communism and in South Africa after the end of Apartheid.
Smith plays into the hands of the Russians by weakening the U.S. response to their efforts to destabilize Macedonia, undermine its democracy, and turn it away from the West. (His attack on the Soros Foundations also lends strength to the shameful move by the extreme right leadership of Hungary to close down the Soros-founded Central European University in Budapest, which has been a beacon for democratization throughout the region.)
Some think that Congressman Smith’s rant may have to do with the Republican right wing’s resentment of George Soros for his support of Democrats in our recent elections rather than with on-the ground realities in Europe. (Until last year the Republicans had no issues with Soros’s international activities). If so, then Smith has decided to place partisan politics ahead of America’s safety and security in dealing with the Russian expansionist threat.
Whether Smith is acting out of malevolence or cluelessness, or both, he’s completely out of his depth. Although I vote in an adjoining district, I hope my neighbors will remember the damage he’s done to America’s interests when he comes up for re-election.
Dr. Allen H. Kassof
President Emeritus, Project on Ethnic Relations