Sign Up Now! SZA to Headline South Orange-Maplewood Coalition on Race Celebration March 29

0 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail

MAPLEWOOD AND SOUTH ORANGE, New Jersey, March 17 – The South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race, a nationally recognized non-profit committed to building a unique, suburban community free of racial segregation in housing patterns and community involvement, today announced plans to mark its 25-year anniversary with a virtual event that will include a special appearance by Maplewood’s own Grammy-nominated artist SZA with her mother and Coalition Program Director, Audrey Rowe. A panel discussion will explore the two towns’ ups and downs over the past quarter-century, measures to advance equity and stop resegregation in the future, and a roadmap for other American communities with similar goals.

The Pursuit of Racial Equity & Integration: A 25-Year Journey in Maplewood and South Orange, New Jersey” will be held Tuesday, March 29, from 7:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. ET. To register for the free virtual celebration, click here. The event will also include remarks from The Honorable Tahesha Way, who has served as New Jersey’s secretary of state since 2018, and the panel discussion will be moderated by Nancy Solomon, managing editor of New Jersey Public Radio and a senior reporter at WNYC. Panelists include Coalition Founders Fred Profeta, Jr. and Carol Barry-Austin; Executive Director Nancy Gagnier; Trustees Abigail P. Cotler, Kelly Quirk and Erin R. Scherzer; and Committee Member Patricia Canning.

Amid events of the past two years that include a global pandemic that disproportionately impacted people of color, massive protests against police brutality and limits on how the history of race and racism are taught in schools, the Coalition believes the most transformative and enduring solutions to our nation’s inequity problems will come from within individual communities.

“With this event, the South Orange/Maplewood Community on Coalition on Race is excited to share our 25-year history – from our dogged pursuit of racial equity in our schools and in all aspects of civic life to defeating the forces of racial steering and white flight in our early days,” said Profeta, who also served as Maplewood’s mayor from 2004 to 2007. “We want to engage our local residents who may not be aware of the full scope of our work and lend the lessons of our experience to other American towns seeking similar progress.”

Located about 20 miles outside New York City and just a few miles from Newark, New Jersey, the “two towns” of South Orange and Maplewood share a school district as well as other civil services and community programs.

The racial composition of the two towns is today stable following double-digit percentage declines in the white population during the late 1990s. Combined, the towns are now approximately 60% white, 31% Black, 6% Hispanic and 3% Asian. There is a higher percentage of Black residents than in comparable nearby towns, and the number of Asian, Hispanic and multiracial people have increased since the 2010 census.

The Coalition was formed in 1997 amid concerns of resegregation. In addition to halting real estate agent tactics aimed at “flipping” the towns, the Coalition set out to create an “integration culture,” a term coined by one of its founding members.

“The word integration can make people uncomfortable because it forces us to face the fact that in many parts of the country, there is little diversity and even in American communities that are integrated, people of different races are often living separate lives,” said Profeta.

The Coalition’s aim is not only to preserve integration but also to create equity so that people of different races can live among one another, receive the same quality education, visit the same parks and shop in the same stores. It believes that in a town committed to these ideals, residents have shared, vested interests in the well-being of all the neighborhoods that make up their community.

“As the Coalition focused on racial steering and issues surrounding white flight, we also addressed equity in our district schools, in particular the minority achievement gap,” said Barry-Austin, who co-chairs the Coalition’s Schools Committee. “How was the tracking system in our schools creating racially imbalanced classes and what could be done about it? We also examined issues such as stereotype anxiety, teacher expectations and race, and the influence of family background and income. Equity and excellence in our community’s schools has always been of paramount importance to the organization.”

During the event, panelists will discuss ways for communities to get started or reboot their own pursuit of racial equity and integration, focusing on three key areas where the Coalition believes the greatest gains are possible: closing the power gap in civic institutions; closing the achievement or opportunity gap in schools; and closing the wealth gap through fair housing policies and practices.

Communities across the nation can set up a start-up consultation with Coalition leadership to explore how they can take action and the challenges they can expect to face. People interested in learning more should contact Executive Director Nancy Gagnier at or visit


The South Orange-Maplewood Community Coalition on Race is a nationally recognized non-profit focused on racial integration and inclusion in suburban communities for over 25 years. Established in 1997 by a diverse group of concerned residents, government members, and business owners, the organization is committed to building and preserving a unique, suburban community that is free of racial segregation in all areas of community life, including housing patterns, schools, leadership, and community involvement. Learn more at

Related Articles