In February 2018, Laura Esposito was part of a small group of Southern Regional High School students who organized a peaceful demonstration outside the school to memorialize those killed during a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. At the time, part of her mantra was the “need to be better humans.”
On Saturday, June 6, Esposito, a 2018 Southern graduate, along with friends Schneider Juste and Olivia Sattan – who graduated from Southern last year – will lead a march over the Causeway Bridge with a similar mantra in mind.
“Our main goal is to raise awareness of casual racism throughout the country and even right here in our community,” Esposito said. “We grew up here and love it. But people here need to realize racism is not OK, and we’re trying to be a voice that speaks up against racism of any kind. This is why we chose to do this here. There are systemic inequalities based on racism going on everywhere, and it needs to change. And we need to be a voice for that change. It starts with us, right here in our community. We all need to be better human beings, myself included. We’re all in this together.”
The demonstration is slated for 10 a.m. It’s expected to begin near the East Bay Avenue extension at Route 72, and participants will utilize the barricaded sidewalk on the north side of the thoroughfare bridge near Mallard Island Yacht Club and the Dorland J. Henderson Memorial Bridge as their path eastward. They will march along that same path onto Cedar Bonnet Island.
Once over the main bridge, participants will gather for about 30 minutes in the area along the state highway next to The Boat Yard. Once the last of the marchers arrives to that area, a short time will pass before they head back toward the original gathering area.
“The expectation is to be done by 1 p.m.,” Juste said. “Before we walk over the bridge, we’ll have about 15 minutes of speeches. But before anything starts, we’re going to have a moment of silence for George Floyd.”
Esposito said the hope is that the march generates positive dialogue for change regarding the inequalities black people face every day.
“Racism happens in varying scales all across the country,” she said. “We need to do our part to make America better. Racism exists and there’s no place for it. This march is about stressing the inequalities black people everywhere face on a day-to-day basis.”
Juste and Esposito reiterated that participants in Saturday’s demonstration must wear face coverings and do their best to maintain a peaceful presence at all times, while 6 feet apart.
Marchers can bring signs, but they cannot bear negative messages, specifically anything degrading about police.
“This is not going to be a riot, and this is not about anything against police,” Esposito said. “We respect the police and we don’t want anybody saying anything negative about police or carrying signs that degrade the police. Schneider and I, as well as the others who are helping organize this, are going do our best to be on the lookout for those kinds of things. We also want to be respectful of the governor’s executive orders for face masks and distancing. We’re trying to do this in the best, most law-abiding way possible. That’s why we’ve alerted and talked to the police department, and others, about this.”
Still, part of the purpose is to express the anger many feel about racism and its effects.
“Yes, we’re angry that racism exists and it’s a problem, even here,” Esposito said. “And we can’t downplay that. But we can do productive and positive things to change our culture and society. This is one of the ways.”
Juste said he and his friends only want something positive to come out of the march.
“Racism and racial inequality are important issues throughout the nation,” he said. “We’re going to have a moment of silence at the beginning, but we really want to get the message across that many people experience racism and racial inequality and it’s not right.”
Stafford Township Police Chief Thomas Dellane provided a reminder that parking within the roadway along East Bay Avenue is prohibited, and violators will be ticketed accordingly. He also said state and county officers may have a presence in the vicinity during the march.
Participants should be prepared for hot weather. As of Thursday afternoon, the forecast called for a temperature in the mid- to upper-80s. On the event’s Facebook page (LBI Black Lives Matter Protest), more than 450 people have expressed their desire to attend.
— David Biggy
Jim Hutchinson Sr.
Despite some days with extraordinary winds as weather fronts moved through the Beach Haven area, warmer temperatures resembling summer have finally arrived for the captains of the Beach Haven Charter Fishing Association.
This weather trend has brought summer type species of fish to add to the menu of spring offerings that are still hanging around. Striped bass action continues to tighten lines up with schoolie sized bass in the bay waters and inlets, while fish over 40-inches are being caught in the ocean and even from the beaches of Long Beach Island.
The bluefish and black drumfish action has not been as good as was anticipated, but it is still strong enough to make trying for them worthwhile. The action on the inshore reefs and other structure is dominated with the black sea bass action along with some ling and occasional codfish.
Captain Gary Dugan had a party out doing some reef fishing on the “Irish Jig” despite some unfavorable weather conditions. He said the group made a great showing and put a respectable number of keeper sea bass in the fish box.
Other fish showing up to make things interesting are blowfish, kingfish, some shark action, and even a few weakfish.
Captain Brett Taylor of Reel Reaction Sportfishing has been fishing practically every day and scoring on fluke in the bay, striped bass around the inlet waters, and good catches of black sea bass in the ocean. The Critelli family had a bay charter and first picked up a decent number of stripers including three using bonus tags. They then jigged up some 25 fluke, keeping four for the table.
Another trip Denise Theiler along with her daughter Madison and friend Shawn caught over 30 fluke on a half-day trip. They went home with four keepers to 20-inches. Captain Brett said much of the catching was in just 2-feet of water.
Captain Brett stresses good social distancing on all trips and requires facemasks on all charters but allow them to be temporarily removed for pictures.
Additional information on the BHCFA and its many activities can be obtained at www.BHCFA.net.