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BHDC Newsletter - February 2021


February News from the Berkeley Heights Diversity Council (BHDC)

The Berkeley Heights Diversity Council has been very busy and there's more planned. Enjoy these highlights of our upcoming and recent community Diversity initiatives, details for each below: Going on NOW:

  • Black History Month - Facebook & Video Series

  • Woman of the Week (WOW) Series for Women's Heritage Month - Nominate Today!

Summaries of recent events:

  • Lunar New Year - including an ongoing Community Service opportunity - February, 2021

  • Board of Education Listening Session - November, 2020

  • MLK Jr Day of Service - Online Celebration and Offline Community Service - January, 2021

Coming Soon:

  • "Personal Stories That Inspire Action", New Providence Diversity Committee - February, 2021

  • Listening Sessions Planned with BHPD and BOE - March 2021

We are working towards making Berkeley Heights the most open and welcoming community in New Jersey. Join us! Please spread the word, forward this email and please participate in BHDC events.


Black History Month - Facebook Series


We hope you're following our Berkeley Heights Diversity Facebook posts celebrating Black History Month! We are posting twice a week, celebrating notable people and events. Initial posts have celebrated: Shirley Chisholm, Hank Aaron, and Carter G. Woodson. Watch to see who's next and make sure you don't miss any posts by following Berkeley Heights Diversity Council.

Woman of the Week (WOW) Series

In honor of the women who are driving change, blazing trails and nurturing society, the Berkeley Heights Diversity Council is excited to celebrate Women’s History Month by bringing back our inspiring “Woman of the Week (WOW)” series this March.

WOW will honor the women right here in Berkeley Heights who are impacting the world in their own way.

Who inspires you? Motivates you? Leads you? Has impacted your life in a special way? The Berkeley Heights Diversity Council seeks your input as we select local phenomenal women to feature in our series in March. Please nominate one of the local women who inspires you by emailing the BHDC at bhdiversity@gmail.com


Lunar New Year

What a great series of virtual events! The Lunar New Year, most commonly associated with the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival, typically falls sometime between January 21 and February 20 each year. Lunar New Year 2021 is on February 12, and according to the Chinese zodiac, this year is the Year of the Ox! In addition to being observed in China, it is celebrated throughout Asia, including South Korea and Singapore. In Vietnam, Lunar New Year is known as Tết, and in Tibet it's Losar. In South Korea, it is called Seollal. Though celebrated by many, the customs and traditions in each culture are unique and special, with a common thread of celebrating new beginnings, spending time with family and honoring ancestors.


In years past, the Summit Area YMCA partnered with the Berkeley Heights Diversity Council to host joyous in-person Lunar New Year Festivals complete with performances, demonstrations, local food vendors and activities focused on Lunar New Year traditions and Asian culture. This year, the Summit Area YMCA once again partnered with the Berkeley Heights Diversity Council, as well as a number of other community organizations and groups including Giving Back, Sage Eldercare and Han Academy to virtually celebrate the holiday and give back to our local community.


The local virtual celebration was conducted online through Zoom on February 13, 2021, and included a lion dance performance by Garden State Lion Dance, Lunar New Year story time, activities and more. Details and a recording of the celebration can be found via the Summit Area YMCA’s Lunar New Year Festival webpage at www.thesay.org/lnyf

In addition to the Zoom celebration, the Summit Area YMCA’s Berkeley Heights YMCA and Summit YMCA branches, in partnership with Giving Back, hosted a Lunar New Year Care Package Supplies collection drive from February 2-February 19, 2021 to create care packages that will be delivered to local senior citizens in Berkeley Heights, New Providence and Summit by Sage Eldercare’s Meals on Wheels program.


Board of Education Listening Session - November, 2020

BHDC and Berkeley Heights School District hosted our first Listening Session in November. It was informative, insightful, and inspiring.


We thank all who joined the BHDC and the Berkeley Heights Schools/BOE for our first Community Listening Session focused on Diversity and Inclusion in the Berkeley Heights Schools. As many of you shared that night, we agree that it was a great opportunity for open community dialogue. We strongly believe that continuing to offer open and welcoming dialogue about tough topics will be critical to creating a more open and welcoming community in Berkeley Heights.


Dr Varley, along with school diversity committee leaders gave an overview of the work they have done this year including creating committees, filling key roles and setting goals for district-wide as well as building-level Diversity Committees. Dr. Varley stated; “It is critically important that every child feels welcomed and accepted when they come to school. The Diversity committees begin us down this path by celebrating our differences, communicating our vision, providing educational opportunities for both students and teachers, and creating safe spaces for difficult conversations, and empowering all students to take ownership of an inclusive culture. Building this Inclusive culture is central to the District's mission and we are completely committed to it and would not delay it for anything, even the COVID 19 pandemic.”


The session allowed for residents to ask questions and raise important issues, either directly or via the Zoom chat function. What resulted was interesting, insightful and thought provoking discussion. Some of the topics covered included:

  • Expand diversity within the district’s curriculum - in both depth of content and breadth of subject matter.

  • Expand the hiring of a more diverse staff of teachers, and administrators- something the district is currently addressing but will take time to see changes

  • District Diversity Committees - how were they formed? When will parents hear about the work they are doing?

  • LGBTQTIA+ - integration into the curriculum, especially sex education

  • District survey about diversity and inclusion focusing on outcomes

  • Training provided to teachers staff and administration. Can it also be expanded to other adults in the buildings including lunch aides?

More details about the listening session can be found in TAPinto Berkeley Heights and on the Berkeley Heights Diversity website. The BHDC and BOE plan to host Listening Sessions three times a year. Please watch your email as we will soon announce the dates for the March Listening Sessions.

6th Annual BHDC Martin Luther King Jr Day of Service - January, 2021

What a morning! The Community gathered in a crowded “zoom room” to hear about the life, teachings and ongoing influence of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The BHDC was thrilled to see so many community members, our Mayor, members of our Town Council, Board of Education, School Principals and Administrators and members of the Berkeley Heights Police Department gathered together sharing the experience.

This event is usually an in-person, day of service that has been hosted at Autumn Lake at Berkeley Heights for the past few years. Although we could not gather in person we were thrilled with the participation of nearly 90 friends and neighbors at our virtual event. Community Service Let’s work together as a community to live out the values of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by helping families in need. The event celebrated a “day on” not a “day off” so we hope that the community will take some of these opportunities to serve locally. One of the service opportunities was a diaper drive and collection of baby hygiene items for the Moms Helping Moms Foundation. Moms Helping Moms Foundation’s Mission is to provide low-income families in NJ with the essential baby items that they need to give their children a safe, happy and healthy start. To help with this goal will be hosting a virtual and an in-person diaper drive.

Moms Helping Moms Virtual Baby Care Drive (yougivegoods.com).

Click on the "Shop Now" button. Open thru mid-March.​

Virtual Event - Recorded - Watch it Today! In case you missed it, the event was recorded, and is available on the BHDC website (www.bhdiversity.org/bhdc-events). The BHDC has a list of Service Opportunities which remain available. A list of resources to learn more about the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is also available on our website.


Highlights from the event include heartfelt messages about the legacy that Dr. King’s life continues to inspire. Dr Jean Marquis shared what it really means to be “my brother's keeper” and why we must take on that opportunity whenever we can. Students from GL Unfiltered and the GL Diversity Committee created a memorable video combining Dr King's words, speeches and how his life has influenced them. Recently elected Board of Education representative Joy Young and Town Councilman Jeff Varnerin both reflected on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and how their own personal experiences and those of their family members' spirit of service for others has evolved during their own lifetimes.


The BHDC hopes to return to an in-person event next year if possible, where we can more easily gather, allowing more to actively participate and serve as a community together.


Personal Stories that Inspire Action - New Providence Diversity Virtual Event

The New Providence Diversity Committee is sponsoring a new way to celebrate Black History with unique perspectives from the New Providence community. Join the New Providence Diversity Committee and New Providence Memorial Library for this special virtual event on Sunday, February 28 at 2pm. Link to virtual event


Listening Sessions - Continuing to Create Safe Space of Open Community Dialogue in Berkeley Heights

We strongly believe that continuing to offer open and welcoming dialogue about tough topics will be critical to creating a more open and welcoming community in Berkeley Heights. Creating these safe spaces for members of the community to connect, talk about ways to bring our community together and air concerns is something the the BHDC has been doing for over 6 years. We have continued to create those safe spaces during COVID by hosting a series of Listening Sessions in the community, some with specific focus such as with the Berkeley Heights Police and with the Berkeley Heights School District. Those virtual Listening Sessions started in June of 2020 and will continue quarterly to continue to allow our community to gather, connect and speak out in a safe space. Listening Sessions with the Berkeley Heights Police Department and with the Berkeley Heights School District are planned in March, 2021. Watch your email for more details coming soon!

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