PRINCETON: Let’s keep alive the spirit of Communiversity

Alyce Bush, Princeton
There is currently a petition circulating in Princeton collecting signatures to present to the mayor and council. It requests that they vote to deny any future application from the organizers of the annual Communiversity festival to hold the event on Sunday. Some petitioners have been rather aggressive in their quest to gather signatures. I was chastised when I refused to sign. They are also getting signatures from non-Princeton residents. In order for a petition to be considered, the signers must live or work in the town.
The petition was started by former Mayor Jim Floyd and an ad-hoc group of residents of the Witherspoon-Jackson community who claim that the decision by the festival organizers to move the event from Saturday to Sunday caused “parking nightmares” and had a “devastating effect” on the African-American churches in their community. The festival places a burden on all the churches in the heart of town on that Sunday, but some members of the Witherspoon-Jackson churches are the only ones who have made it an issue. It’s only one Sunday.
Two years ago, the festival day was changed to Sunday when the Nassau Street merchants complained that Communiversity had a negative impact on their Saturday sales because people shopped at the festival and not in their stores. The merchants said fewer people shopped on Sunday, so their sales were not as severely impacted. Some Jewish residents said they felt left out because Saturday was their Sabbath and they were not able to participate in the festivities.
I am a member of the Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church, one of the churches in the Witherspoon-Jackson Community. I and members of our Outreach Committee have happily joined the celebration with a booth at Communiversity for the past five years. It is always a fun and exciting experience.
I attended a review meeting following the 2014 festival that included Jeff Nathanson, the executive director of the Arts Council of Princeton, which sponsors the Communiversity festival, representatives of the police and fire departments, representatives of the merchants of Princeton, pastors and members of other churches in the Witherspoon-Jackson Community. The discussion revolved around the Saturday vs. Sunday issue. Mr. Nathanson, and the members of the police department promised to reach out to members of the Witherspoon-Jackson Community to remind them of the changes for that one Sunday. The representatives of the churches said they would notify their members of the changes. It appeared to me the issue was settled.
Communiversity was started in 1971 to unite Princeton University and the Princeton communities in a day of celebration and mutual respect. Now, as we all know, it has become a beloved annual regional event that draws almost 45,000 people. The petition could change all that by igniting an ugly and divisive “us vs. them” debate that would undermine the very concept of Communiversity — bringing the communities together. It would be a shame to let that happen. 
Alyce Bush 
Princeton 