June 15 Follow-Up Clergy, Faith & Community Leaders Gathering

School Segregation, Education & Opportunity in New Jersey.

Last month nearly 100 faith and community leaders gathered with key legislative allies, including the leadership of the powerful NJ Legislative Black Caucus, to address the worsening crisis caused by the enduring sin of racial segregation in our public schools.

In addition to Assemblyman Benjie E. Wimberly, Assemblywoman Mila Jasey and Legislative Black Caucus Chair Assemblywoman Shavonda E. Sumter, we were joined by renowned civil rights scholars and lawyers including John C. Brittain at UDC School of Law in Washington, DC,  Leslie Wilson of Montclair State University and Myron Orfield, Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota.

Meeting organizers Rev. Willie Francois of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Pleasantville and Rev. Kenneth Clayton, Pastor of St. Luke Baptist Church in Paterson provided background on the recent wave of racialized school secessions across the state where majority white school districts seek to sever their send-receive relationships with majority black and brown school districts in clear violation of the New Jersey constitution outlawing racially segregated education. In the meantime, the same cabal of highly paid consultants and lawyers representing the seceding districts have bragged that a new bill they claimed to help write for  school consolidation can be used to subsidize and accelerate segregation (“withdrawals”) in the name of efficiency and cost savings.

Legislative leaders were asked and agreed to hold hearings on this issue including the current legislation now before the General Assembly.

On Tuesday, June 15 we will reconvene for an update on our progress to stop this new and expanding form of school Jim Crow and to advance strategies and policies to maximize access to opportunity for all children and communities across the state.

Tuesday, June 15 at 1:00 to 2:00 pm. Please pre-register here for this virtual gathering of faith leaders


From Brown to Plessy - May 18 Clergy Gathering

An Important Conversation about the State of School Segregation, Education & Opportunity in New Jersey.

 With Assemblyman Benjie E. Wimberly and Legislative Black Caucus Chair Assemblywoman Shavonda E. Sumter.

Also John C. Brittain, Civil Rights Law Professor at UDC School of Law in Washington, DC and Leslie Wilson, Montclair State University, Associate Dean, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, American History and African American studies and Myron Orfield, Professor of Law, University of Minnesota and Director of the Institute for Metropolitan Opportunity.

Hosted by Rev. Willie D. Francois of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Pleasantville and Rev. Kenneth Darryl Ray Clayton, Pastor of St. Luke Baptist Church, Paterson. 

Tuesday, May 18 at 1:00 to 2:00 pm. Please pre-register here for this virtual gathering of faith leaders

Tuesday, May 18 marks 125 years since the infamous Plessy v Ferguson decision that codified legal segregation in America. It falls only 1 day after the 67th anniversary of Brown v Board which overturned Plessy on the grounds that “separate can never be equal”.

Today in New Jersey, we are experiencing enduring and deeply unequal racial segregation in our schools too often combined with a lethal mix of economic isolation and poverty concentration.of us know the dark history of deliberate and intentional discrimination and redlining that contributed to modern Jim Crow segregation in the north. However, many are unaware of recent and ongoing efforts by individuals and institutions to deny our children a decent education by hoarding resources and opportunity through continued efforts to maintain and even expand segregation by both race and class. A situation that is only expected to get worse in the aftermath of the pandemic.

On Tuesday, May 18 we will present some of this information for you and members of the legislature so we can prayerfully consider and agree on meaningful action to combat these real time examples of institutional and systemic racism in all of our regions and across the state. Please register here for this virtual faith leaders meeting.

Star-Ledger Guest Columnist - Willie Dwayne Francois III

No time for handwashing, absolving ourselves of segregating schools | Opinion

Updated Apr 01, 2021; Posted Apr 01, 2021

Willie Dwayne Francois III, senior pastor at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Pleasantville, says we need courageous and imaginative state leaders who won't wash their hands of the responsibility to cure the shameful inequality permeating our deeply segregated public schools.

Star-Ledger Guest Columnist 

By Willie Dwayne Francois III

Holy Week occasions some concentrated time of reflection and action as large segments of the Christian world prepare to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth — a poor Palestinian carpenter victimized by political malfeasance and a politics of self-preservation of the state and its power.

This year, April 4th is not only Easter Sunday and the last day of the Jewish Passover. It also marks the 54th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who never wavered in his intense opposition to segregation as a vile systemic sin and an assault on humanity. This Holy Week, almost 66 years after Brown v. Board of Education, New Jersey carries the distinction as the sixth most racially segregated school system in the United States in terms of the highest segregation of Black students and seventh in segregation of Latinos.

Today, in New Jersey, we need courageous and imaginative leadership at the state level, who will not wash their hands of the responsibility to cure the shameful inequality permeating our deeply segregated public schools.

Holy Week’s storied traditions and narratives include one of the most infamous acts of moral betrayal and political cowardice — one of the world’s most notorious acts of handwashing. Pontius Pilate, who was presiding over the kangaroo trial and state-sponsored death of Jesus, served at the pleasure of Emperor Tiberius as the governor of colonized Judaea. Matthew’s account of the episodic execution of Jesus depicts Governor Pilate, in a cowardly gesture to the crowd, washing his hands with water, absolving himself, and sentencing Jesus to capital punishment.

This is no time for Governor Murphy to wash his hands of the responsibility to end school segregation— a priority thrust upon him when more than 90% of the Black vote delivered him a win in 2017. Each time New Jersey students enter segregated classrooms or log into segregated Zoom sessions, it eviscerates public trust in the Murphy administration’s commitment to racial equity and economic justice.

School segregation inscribes the stigma of shame and inferiority on the psyche of the children forced to live under marked powerlessness and disinvestment. There is a clear consensus among social scientists, educational experts and civil rights scholars of the high correlation between racial education segregation, concentrated poverty, poor educational outcomes and many other debilitating social and economic problems.

For years, a group of majority white school districts across New Jersey has waged efforts to terminate their send-receive relationships with majority Black and brown districts. In the past, New Jersey courts have consistently and correctly struck down these secession attempts because they would exacerbate racial segregation and, therefore, violate New Jersey’s constitution. This was the case with Englewood Cliff’s efforts to separate from Englewood and North Haledon’s attempt to secede from Manchester Regional High School.

Recently, however, a group of lawyers and consultants led by attorney Vito Gagliardi of the firm Porzio, Bromberg, and Newman has delivered a string of secessionist victories to their clients (majority white school districts), relying on a handwashing Education Commissioner and Governor. Last year, Governor Murphy’s previous Education Commissioner allowed Maywood to separate from Hackensack, a decision that contradicts the Supreme Court’s decision in Englewood Cliffs. There was neither a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge nor anyone to challenge the fallacious claims that the separation would have no racial impact.

The most egregious decision occurred in 2015 when the state-sanctioned the will of Merchantville to sever its relationship with Pennsauken and join majority White Haddon Heights High School. For Merchantville, the Porzio firm embarked on an aggressive and expensive multiyear campaign to strand Pennsauken on the isles of segregation and isolation despite Merchantville’s best efforts in state courts.

Gagliardi promised that the separation would have no racial impact. Today we see his promises proved false. The year Pennsauken was cut loose, the 9th-grade class at Pennsauken’s high school declined from 328-272 students, and the number of White ninth graders fell from 40-24. Merchantville’s new destination, Haddon Heights, increased from 104 white students in 2015 to 149 in 2018.

Soon to be on the commissioner’s desk is Absecon’s latest petition to withdraw from Pleasantville High School. Like the other secessionist efforts, Absecon possesses a history of lobbying to end this agreement, including a rejection from the state in 1988 because withdrawing the 20 to 30 students they send to Pleasantville would result in more, not less, segregation. They are making the same argument today.

The majority white school district hopes no one cares about Pleasantville’s children, just like the Porzio team believes no one cares about Pennsauken or Hackensack’s students. They are counting on the new Acting Education Commissioner to roll over like the last one. They are banking on Gov. Murphy to pull a Pontius Pilate and wash his hands of it all.

If the state affirms Absecon’s resolve to secede, this administration only reinforces and validates school segregation. What message does it communicate to Pleasantville students I know, like Tanitra and Saul? Or students like Jose and Erin — young people matriculating into adulthood and civic life — will be forgotten by the state. There is no question that students in Absecon deserve a high-quality education. The students in Pleasantville deserve the same.

Absecon’s petition, if approved, would leave Pleasantville 100% nonwhite and completely isolated. That is not only illegal under our constitution; it is immoral and deeply corrosive to us all. Therefore, this moment requires action from state policymakers like Gov. Murphy, Senator President Stephen Sweeney, and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin. This is no time for handwashing when the future of children’s lives and democracy are in question.

This Holy Week, the courageous, self-sacrificing examples of the revolutionary Jesus summons us to get our collective hands dirty to end social arrangements of powerlessness and to end school segregation and secessions. We start by demanding the rejection of Absecon’s petition and the many nearly identical proposals all across the state.

Willie Dwayne Francois III is the senior pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Pleasantville. He is also an author, an adjunct instructor in African American Studies at the University of Houston and president of the Theological Working Group of the Black Church Center for Justice and Equality.

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March Against Secession

March for Freedom and Justice

Sunday, March 21 from Pleasantville to Absecon. 2pm.

Join us as we march for justice, freedom and dignity for our children, Sunday, March 21 at 2pm beginning at at Pleasantville High School, 701 Mill Road, Pleasantville NJ.

You can sign up here.

Here in New Jersey we have been tolerating levels of racial and economic segregation in our schools not seen since the days of Jim Crow in the South.  March 21 is the 56th anniversary of the start of Dr. King’s historic march from Selma to Montgomery to confront Alabama’s segregationist governor.


Segregation is harming all our children and Covid-19 has only deepened the disparities and the damage that it inflicts.  

Tragically, instead of getting better, school segregation is getting worse and is being made worse by people who wish to further segregate and isolate schools with predominantly black and brown children. Across the state there are active efforts to allow majority white, middle-class schools to secede from majority black, brown and poor districts. One of those petitions to Governor Murphy’s new

education commissioner seeks to “terminate” the send / receive relationship between the Absecon and Pleasantville school districts here in Atlantic County. This act, if approved, would increase segregation and violate our state’s constitution. And the samcabal of highly paid lawyers and consultants are using the same secessionist tactics all across the state to further isolate already poor and isolated children. On March 21 we will march to Absecon to demand a halt to secession and an end to intentional structures of racial segregation anywhere in our state.

Racial and economic segregation is not an accident nor is it a choice. It’s a result of deliberate policies and actions like these that go unnoticed and unchallenged. It’s time we confronted this glaring example of structural and systemic racism right here in our region and our state.

Please join us for this important action to challenge segregation and demand a broad and transformative solution to the problem of school segregation here and across New Jersey. Sign up here to let us know you will be there.

Liberating the world through Love, 

Willie Dwayne Francois III

Pastor. Activist. Writer.



Issues and Action and Strategic Campaigns

Training for leaders who want to wage and win campaigns that change structures of opportunity.

April 13 and April 15 (Tuesday and Thursday) 7:00  PM to 9:00 PM

Mt Zion Baptist Church, Pleasantville, 353 S New Rd, Pleasantville, NJ

Building One America and the Coalition Against Racial Exclusion will conduct a four hour training for leaders and organizers to better prepare us for the fight for our children and schools. The training will be held on two evenings for two hours each. Attendees will be asked to attend both. The training will focus on the principles, disciplines, tools of waging and winning a campaign for racial justice and economic opportunity for all.

Some of those principle, disciplines and tools will include:

  • Understanding power: In any contest people and organizations must understand both their capacity and their limits as well as the limits and capacities of their adversaries.
  • Issues and actions: Understanding the difference between a problem and an issue. Learning how to cut an issue and make it actionable. Learn how to conduct an effective action.
  • Strategic Campaign: Here we focus on issue campaigns with larger objectives involving structural social change. Strategic campaigns often have multiple objectives, targets, tactics and allies as well as strategic and organizational goals. It will be important for leaders at all levels to better understand these elements and principles of strategy.
  • Elements and purpose a power organization: Understanding the key elements of an organization that can fight and win a strategic campaign that changes structures of opportunity. We will spend some time on better preparing ourselves organizationally for a fight including the role of leadership, money, training, information, structure, allies and communication.

The training will take place over two evenings and run for two hours each evening. From 7 PM to 9 PM. There is a $25 fee to cover the costs of the training. Discounts are available for students and affiliated organizations.

  • When:  April 13 and April 15 (Tuesday and Thursday) 7:00  PM to 9:00 PM. The training will take place in two parts over two evenings and run for two hours each evening. There is a $25 fee to cover the costs of the training. Discounts are available for students and affiliated organizations. It will take place at the Mount Zion Baptist Church in Pleasantville, NJ.  Attendees are asked to attend both evenings.
  • Where:  Mt Zion Baptist Church, Pleasantville, 353 S New Rd, Pleasantville, NJ. Because space is limited, interested individuals must apply and register to participate in this program.  Go HERE to register. 

Inquire at info@buildingoneamerica.org about congregational, organizational and students or senior discounts.  


Summit for Civil Rights 2021



We are seeking to Make America One Nation The Other America, Dr. Martin Luther King, 1967


Summary of Transition Recommendations

An Agenda for Racial Justice and Middle Class Opportunity for All Americans Within a Metropolitan Framework

On July 30 and 31, 2020, over 50 civil rights leaders, including renowned scholars and litigators, clergy and faith leaders, grassroots organizers, labor union presidents and elected officials including powerful members of Congress, convened with over 500 participants to examine and call for action on today’s triple crisis of deadly racial injustice, vanishing middle class opportunity and toxic political polarization. One of our central conclusions is that spatial disparities (segregation by race and income), especially across America’s metropolitan regions, are significant and critical drivers of structural inequalities in wealth, education and opportunity, widening both race and class divides and contributing to our already fractured politics. What follows are recommendations for federal action for reducing these disparities and expanding an inclusive middle class through structural reform at the regional level.  

The first Summit for Civil Rights began on November 9, 2017 at the University of Minnesota Law School in Minneapolis. It was held a year to the day after the election of Donald J. Trump and featured Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, Vice President Walter Mondale and many others. Since then, we have held two more gatherings sponsored by Rutgers University School of Labor Relations in New Brunswick, NJ and Georgetown University Law School’s Workers’ Rights Institute in Washington, DC.  Between events, a core committee of Summit organizers representing civil rights scholars, labor leaders, law students, clergy and elected officials have been assembling research and analysis to produce a set of recommendations for a strategic approach and a policy agenda to address some of the most critical issues facing our country.

The Summit for Civil Rights held this past July was the latest in the series of three convenings that included, among others: House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, House Committee on Education and Labor Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, NEA President Becky Pringle, NAACP President Derrick Johnson, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, Vice President Walter Mondale, AME Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, NAACP Legal Defense Fund President Sherrilyn Ifill, AFT President Randi Weingarten, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman; and many other civil rights activists, litigators, scholars and experts in education, housing, finance and labor .  

Our third Summit was held virtually under the cloud of the current health emergency and economic catastrophe resulting from the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the immediate crisis of the pandemic, the Summit for Civil Rights conference maintained its focus on addressing the three main interrelated topics listed above: racial injustice, economic inequality and political polarization in America. We did not ignore the pandemic. On the contrary, the still unfolding crisis has acted as an ill-timed and regrettable overlay that seems to have only magnified racial disparities, deepened economic inequality and widened the political divide.

This document is an attempt to summarize some of the key areas of transformational reform we believe can and must be pursued by Congress and the new Administration to move our country in a different and better direction. It hopes to unite the energies and the constituencies committed to racial justice and those focused on middle-class opportunity for all Americans—especially groups tied to civil rights and organized labor, including faith communities and local elected officials. Much of this argues for a regional, or metropolitan, approach to bringing us closer together as a country socially, politically and economically.



The Summit for Civil Rights 2019 Sponsors



The Summit for Civil Rights 2017 Sponsors




March on Washington Anniversary - Get Out the Vote Kickoff

This Friday, August 28, will mark 57 years since the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.    It will also mark just 67 days before 2020 general election.

Join us for a remote March on Washington commemoration and kick off of our voter registration drive to give a powerful voice to the voiceless in South Jersey. This Friday, August 28,  5:00 PM to 6:30 PM.

This non-partisan event is being sponsored by the NAACP NextGen program, Building One America, the Summit for Civil Rights Project and Fannie Lou Hamer Voice to the Voiceless in CD2.

Sign up here to receive the remote log-in link to participate in this tribute and inauguration of building a powerful movement for racial and social justice in southern New Jersey.

We are honored to be joined by Timuel Black. Mr. Black was the Lead Organizer of the Chicago contingent of the 1963 March on Washington which sent over 4000 delegates, including nearly 2000 on the two "freedom trains" chartered by A. Philip Randolph's Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters Union. 

Mr. Black and others will share their recollection of the March; what it meant to them then, and what it means to us today, as we struggle against lethal racism and racially polarized politics to build broad multi-racial power for social, racial and economic justice.

We are also honored to be joined by the dynamic and powerful Congresswoman Barbara Lee of Oakland California. Ms. Lee has been consistent and powerfull voices for racial justice, economic opportunity, and peace throughout her career in office and activism.






The program will be moderated by Yolanda Melville, National Chair of the NAACP NextGen Program with comments from Marcus W. King, President of New Jersey’s Teamsters Local 331, and Director of the Human Rights and Diversity Commission for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in Washington, DC and Richard Tolson, recently retired National Executive Council member of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, Rev. Willie Dwayne Francois, Senior Pastor, Mount Zion Baptist Church, Pleasantville, and Alexander Bland, President of the Cape May County Branch of the NAACP.

On Friday, we launch our new campaign to add 10,000 more registered voters to the roles before the 2020 deadline on October 13, 2020.

The Fanie Lou Hammer, Voice to the Voiceless  (FLH V2V CD2) project is a non-partisan initiative to organize multi-racial grassroots power and increase voter participation among historically disenfranchised and underrepresented communities, including African American, Latino, young people, and working class and low income people of all ages and backgrounds.



Summit for Civil Rights 2020

Presented by:
  • The Workers’ Rights Institute at Georgetown University Law School in Washington, D.C.
  • The Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity and
  • The Journal of Law and Inequality at the University of Minnesota Law School in Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Building One America 

We are seeking to Make America One Nation - The Other America, Dr. Martin Luther King, 1967

For the past three years, the Summit for Civil Rights Rights has convened multi-racial and intergenerational gatherings of some of the nation’s top civil rights leaders in the field of organizing, labor, faith, academia, law and government to respond to the powerful and dangerous intersection of enduring racial disparities, widening economic inequality, and rising political polarization throughout our entire society.  Our next Summit will not veer from these timely topics that have only intensified with the pandemic and been courageously amplified by the protesters.

The 3rd Summit for Civil Rights will be held remotely and hosted by the Workers’ Rights Institute at Georgetown University Law School in Washington, DC, and the University of Minnesota Law School in Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 30 and 31.

We have witnessed an extraordinary outpouring of anger, outrage and solidarity across the nation, sparked by the killing of an unarmed Black man by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25. This movement for radical change is coming at a time of a global health crisis, political turmoil, and a massive economic catastrophe deepening existing inequalities while accelerating economic trends already devastating workers and communities.

We have confirmed the participation of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and will release more details as we receive confirmation on speakers and participants. The Summit will start at 1:00 PM on Thursday, July 30 and end at 4:00 PM, Friday, July 31. It will be broken down into four distinct but interrelated discussions over the course of the two days.


While much attention is rightly directed to immediate demands for sweeping police reform, our forum will attempt to examine some of the deeper, historical structures of racial apartheid in American’s institutions and their meaning, especially at this juncture, for working people of all backgrounds and the implications for political action, multi-racial power, and a meaningful and transformative policy agenda.

Some of the topics, building on the past two Summits and attempting to learn from and draw on the new energy, anger and desire for change, include:

Click here for the timed program



  • The national election/s
    • The Black electorate and the rise and fall of populist insurgencies of both the left and right
    • From Black Lives Matter to Black Power


  • The consequences of our inaction and our acquiescence to a racially divided society
    •  52 years since Kerner Commission, 57 since March on Washington
    • Pandemic as microscope and telescope


  • Racial segregation as a lucrative and anti-worker business model
    • How America’s enduring ”Color Line” drives economic inequality


  • Is America ready for a 2nd Reconstruction? A 3rd “Founding”?
    • What would a Civil Rights Restoration Act look Like in 2020?
      • A New Agenda for Economic Opportunity, Racial Justice, Freedom, and Inclusion



The Summit for Civil Rights 2017 Sponsors



Mail in your Ballot

This year's election is Vote By Mail. It must droped off or postmarked today! 

If you are registered, you should have received a Ballot in the Mail

You have until the end of the day TODAY, Tuesday , July 7 to Vote in this Year's Primary

Go to this link for the steps to filling out your ballot

Or you go to this link and watch a demonstration video from the Mainland Pleasantville NAACP

Your ballot must be postmarked before or on July 7th   Best to bring it to an official drop box location

Take your mail-in-ballot to any one of these Drop Box Locations in your County.


In 1957, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the speech "Give Us the Ballot".

In 2020, we must Send IN Our Ballots!












This year we've partnered with First Lady Michelle Obama and her non-partisan campaign called When We All Vote. Just as with President Obama’s historic elections to the U.S. Senate and Presidency, we have to start by increasing the number of registered voters, especially among the underrepresented and historically disenfranchised, including African American, Latino, as well as low-income, working-class and young people of all backgrounds.

 Join our campaign now and receive the Outvote texting App for your cell phone.
as well as the link to Michelle Obama's When we All Vote voter registration campaign. 


Giving Voice to the Voiceless in 2020


 "Don't complain. Don't hashtag.  Don't binge on whatever it is you're binging on.  Don't put your head in the sand.  Don't boo.  Vote." - President Barack Obama

Sign up here to join the Campaign for Remote Voter Engagement in 2020. 

It should come as no surprise how the Covid-19 crisis has revealed and worsened deep disparities of opportunity, social mobility and health in our nation.

The 2020 primary and November 3 general election will have profound consequences for working people of all races and backgrounds. It’s more important than ever that the voice of the people not be silenced.

That’s why we’ve partnered with First Lady Michelle Obama and her non-partisan voter engagement campaign called When We All Vote. Just as with President Obama’s historic elections to the U.S. Senate and Presidency, we have to start by increasing the number of registered voters, especially among the underrepresented and historically disenfranchised populations, including African American, Latino, low-income and working-class voters of all backgrounds, and young people. 

It's also why we teamed up with Outvote for a friend-to-friend texting campaign right from your own cell phone.

Join our campaign now and receive the Outvote App for your cell phone as well as the link to Michelle Obama's When we All Vote voter registration campaign. 

If you are not registered to vote you can start by clicking this link and Register to Vote today.

If you are already registered, and you care about the outcome of this election, you are invited to join this campaign and register others through your networks and relationships such as congregation, family, friends, neighbors, civic associations, schools, universities and unions. Join us by clicking this link or the red join button below.