By GWEN OREL
In 2015, the Rev. Campbell B. Singleton canceled a planned Father’s Day celebration at Union Baptist Church to hold a vigil instead.
It was shortly after the shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., that took the lives of nine people.
Four years on, the son of one of the victims, Chris Singleton (no relation) will address the congregation at Union Baptist Church, 14 Midland Ave. His talk, “Overcoming Adversity and the Unthinkable with Faith, Love and Forgiveness,” will take place this Saturday, Sept. 7, at 3 p.m.
Singleton will speak for 45 minutes, after which there will be some community dialogue, then a panel conversation. He will also speak on Sunday at the church at 11 a.m.
The visit came directly out of that 2015 vigil at UBC, the Rev. Singleton said.
“Everyone came together, mourned, grieved, prayed, sang songs of faith. I asked the persons there to support that church by providing money. We identified two families to support: the family of the pastor of the church, the Pinckney family, and the second was the Singleton family.” Union Baptist Church raised $4,000 for both families.
That family lost its matriarch, the Rev. Sharonda Coleman Singleton, in the shooting.
“Sharonda was born and raised in Newark. She went to Montclair State University,” Rev. Campbell Singleton said. Four years later, Sharonda’s son said he was available to speak and would be interested in visiting Montclair. Chris, a former pro baseball player in the Chicago Cubs organization, has been giving inspirational speeches nationwide, and has been featured by CNN, Sports Illustrated and USA Today, among others.
At first, the Rev. Singleton considered how best to have Chris’ visit help the township work on issues of social justice.
Then the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio happened.
“I decided, we need to mobilize people and empower them to do something,” the Rev. Singleton said, adding that people can support the initiative by tweeting the hashtag #DoSomethingUBC.
Saturday’s event will include a panel discussion featuring Fourth Ward Councilwoman Renée Baskerville, therapist Dr. Willard Ashley of the New Brunswick Theological Seminary, James Harris of of the NAACP, Larry Hamm of People’s Organization for Progress, Dena Salliey and Michael “Mikee” Ellis of Youth Leaders at Union, Todd Conforti, chief of police of the Montclair Police Department, and others, Rev. Campbell Singleton said.
“It’s all about doing something,” he said. “No more inspirational feelings. How do we get grounded? I think about this young man whose mother died, and after that his father died, and now he’s raising his brother and sister, and he has a newborn. This shooting restructured his whole family composition.”
The Rev. Singleton said he hopes to display the faces of the people killed.
“I want to humanize this,” he said. “I want to find a way to break the hate. It’s not just a Latino going to find refuge. It’s not just a black person or a Jew who’s threatening white superiority.
“These lives are sacred. We need to value each other.”