NEWARK, NJ – This week, U.S. Senator Cory Booker convened a Black History Month town hall with leaders in the Black community from across New Jersey. The wide-ranging conversation touched on policies impacting New Jersey’s Black community, including economic justice, criminal justice reform, environmental justice, agriculture policy, and the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the Black community.

Video of the event, which led with opening remarks from Senator Booker followed by a question and answer segment with participants, can be found here.

“We are gathering together in this Black History Month at a time of clear and present urgency. A time of serious challenges across our nation that are disproportionately impacting the African American community,” Senator Booker said during his opening remarks. “We can show what this democracy can truly be when people come together and stand together and work together. Where passion and policy and purpose all unite to advance a people towards the higher ground of justice and away from the mires and quicksand of injustice.”

Senator Booker highlighted several of his key policy proposals during the town hall, including those focused on economic justice like expanding the Child Tax Credit and combating the growing racial wealth gap through his Baby Bonds legislation. With the coronavirus pandemic magnifying the growing heath disparities in communities of color, Senator Booker also discussed his effort to address America's maternal health crisis through legislation he is leading in the Senate, the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021.

Senator Booker also outlined his recent appointment to the Senate Agriculture Committee and his efforts to reform our broken food system, which is critical in a state like New Jersey where agriculture is the state’s third largest industry. His also discussed his recent appointment as Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Criminal Justice and Counterterrorism and his efforts to reform our broken criminal justice system, including his continued work on cannabis reform legislation.

Participants in this week’s town hall had the following to share about their experience at the event:

“The New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus‘ participation in Senator Booker's celebration of Black History Month crystalized our commitment to fighting for equity, equality and inclusion,” said Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter. “These pillars not only lift Black people but all persons who are under-represented through policy changes to combat systemic and structural racism. Our caucus will continue to work together to support and create policies that reimagine a more just society. The New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus is committed to working towards structural and systemic change that will better our great state. We will continue to stand on the shoulders of our ancestors and support the great work of Senator Booker.”

"We are encouraged that Senator Booker is continuing his fight for racial justice by taking on the shameful racial wealth gap across America and in New Jersey, where we have some of the worst disparities in the country," said Laura Sullivan, Economic Justice Director at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. "The racial disparities that plague us were created by policy design over generations, and thus must be eliminated by design. We look forward to working with Senator Booker on Baby Bonds and other strategic initiatives on the state and national levels to create a more economically just society where everyone can thrive."

“You know the words that Senator Booker shared, especially about Harriet Tubman, were really touching because Lawnside was a stop on the Underground Railroad, and our name – Free Haven Farms – comes after the original name of Lawnside, which was Free Haven so we are continuing that legacy,” said Dr. Cynthia Hall, Co-Founder of Free Haven Farms in Lawnside, NJ. “Our mission has really been to address some of the issues that Senator Booker pointed out which were the food desserts that don’t provide access to healthy produce and some of the health effects that come with that. Really excited about the Justice for Black Farmers bill – it’s just amazing – definitely something that we will be able to take advantage of to grow agriculture and urban farming.”

“Considering the current racial and political climate of our country, confidence in government must be restored with actionable items that are easily digestible,” said Leo Bridgewater, NJ CannaInfluencer. “Senator Booker’s Committee appointments and policies such as the Marijuana Justice Act and MORE Act literally set us up as a state and a country on a path to achieve that very thing. Justice is what love looks like in public, and town hall meetings such as this provide a type of therapy and love we all can use.” 

“NOBLE New Jersey appreciates the opportunity to speak with Senator Booker on issues that are important to law enforcement and the equitable administration of justice for all New Jerseyans  whom we serve,” said Jiles Shipp, NJ Chapter President, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement (NOBLE).