Modern-Day Slavery Museum Northeast Tour, Days Six and Seven, Princeton and Paterson, NJ

July 30 & August 1, 2010

To round out the first week of its Northeast Tour, the Modern-Day Slavery Museum departed Pennsylvania for its neighbor to the east, New Jersey. As its nickname hints, the Garden State itself is no stranger to fruit and vegetable production and has served as one of the northernmost points on the East Coast migrant farm labor circuit since the 1920s. Even today, many CIW members spend portions of their summers harvesting crops from tomatoes to blueberries on some of New Jersey’s many farms.
On Day Six, tour crew members found themselves at the steps of beautiful Nassau Presbyterian Church in the heart of Princeton, just blocks from the renowned university of the same name.
And in a notable departure from previous tour stops, the mild, almost spring-like weather afforded museum-goers a wonderful opportunity to take in the exhibit at a leisurely pace…
… including Barbara Chaapel (left), director of communications for Princeton Theological Seminary which generously provided housing for three nights to the museum docents.
The museum was also lucky enough to host some important living history as Larry Spruill (left), a facilities manager at Princeton University, shared his family’s stories of work and struggle in the agricultural fields of Somerset, North Carolina dating back to the period of chattel slavery.
Throughout the day, the museum received a steady stream of visitors from many local congregations, including members of the Nassau Presbyterianand Witherspoon Street Presbyterian churches, as well as students at Princeton Theological Seminary and supporters of the Crisis Ministry of Princeton and Trenton.
(As an interesting historical aside, Witherspoon Street was the one-time church of Renaissance man and life-long social justice crusader Paul Robeson. Robeson’s father, himself an escaped slave from North Carolina, served as the church’s minister from 1881 until 1901.)
As a pleasant day drew to a close, the tour crew felt confident that the Campaign for Fair Food will continue to thrive in Princeton thanks to their wonderful hosts and longtime supporters at Nassau Presbyterian Church, as well as the many others who were moved to action by the mobile exhibit.
The next day, the museum relocated to the Iglesia Presbiteriana Hispana in Paterson, NJ. The tour crew received a very warm reception at the church, many of whose members are Spanish-speaking immigrants who had little trouble relating to the CIW’s quest for dignity and justice in the workplace.
In fact, as the CIW’s Oscar Otzoy addressed the Sunday morning worship service, a constant flow of mini-buses transported many other Paterson residents to hundreds of low-wage, service-sector jobs throughout the New York City metropolitan area.
When the worship service concluded, it was off to races as a flood of church members, young and old, descended upon the museum for the next hour.
Above, the Rev. Noelle Damico of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (left) jumps in for some tag-team docenting alongside Kate Hadley of the Student/Farmworker Alliance…
… while elsewhere, the Rev. Lilia Ramirez (left) , our gracious host at the Iglesia Presbiteriana Hispana, studies the museum’s recently re-designed display chronicling three centuries of forced labor in North Florida agriculture.
And after her personal tour of the museum, the Reverend was not shy in the least about encouraging her congregants to reflect on their consumer choices and to fill out postcards to Stop & Shop calling on the Ahold-owned supermarket chain to partner with the CIW to help stamp out slavery in Florida agriculture once and for all.
Next up: Three days in New York City!