By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
It was Marcus Sibley who pointed out to me back in February how the InsiderNJ’s 2020 African American Power List in Honor of Black History Month lacked some truly deserving people from South Jersey.
I took a brief look at it and generally agreed. Recently, I was able to take a more critical review at the list and was left with a raised eyebrow at some of the omissions and shock at others. In fact, I can point out at least three people (probably several more) whose lack of even an honorable mention cast doubt on the credibility of the entire list.
Instead of complaining, I went through the article as editor of Front Runner New Jersey.com and created a list of 50 of what I call our South Jersey Power List who I believe have the credentials to be included as well.
As a reminder, here is how InsiderNJ ranked South Jerseyans on its African-American Power List in February.
10. State Sen. Troy Singleton, Burlington
14. State Assemblyman Herb Conaway, Moorestown
33. Marty Small, Mayor, Atlantic City
36. Richard T. Smith, New Jersey State NAACP, Bridgeton
37. State Assemblyman Antwan McClellan, Ocean City
43. Amir Khan, activist, Camden
44. Former NJ Supreme Court Justice John Wallace, Pitman
48. Dana Reed, former Camden Mayor
51. Ashley Bennett, Atlantic County Freeholder
54. State Assemblyman William Spearman, Camden
55. Jonathan Young Sr., Camden County Freeholder
59. State Assemblyman Adam Taliaferro, Woolwich Township
64. Albert Kelly, Mayor, Bridgeton
65. Craig Callaway, Atlantic City political operative
99. Mayor Frank Minor, Logan Township
100. Ernest Coursey, Atlantic County Freeholder
Then, there were roughly 150 honorable mentions to the list, placed it seems in no particular order. South Jersey residents on that list included:
*Fatima Heyward, President, New Jersey Young Democrats, Marlton
*Jack Surrency, Cumberland County Freeholder
*Jamila Odom Bremmer, Mayor, Chesilhurst
*Tanzie Youngblood, Activist, retired teacher, former Congressional candidate, Woolwich Township
*Will Cunningham, former Cory Booker staffer, Congressional candidate, Vineland
*John Francis, West Cape May councilman, Congressional candidate
That is 22 in all out of roughly 250 names mentioned (11 percent from South Jersey). While we can quibble about their placement in the rankings, there is no one I would remove from that list and I would include in my South Jersey African-American Power List. For that, InsiderNJ deserved kudos. It’s tough when you are narrowing a list to 100. But in South Jersey, there are plenty of worthy candidates for such a list.
Here are the 50 names I would add to what I am calling (for now at least) the South Jersey African-American Power List 2020, in alphabetical order:
*Edward Bethea, executive vice president Gateway Community Action Partnership, Bridgeton City Council: He is an essential leader in running an organization with a $60 million budget that serves more than 56,000 low to moderate-income people over six counties in New Jersey. He currently serves as president of Bridgeton City Council as well as the Inspira Health Center’s Board of Directors.
*Bernie Blanks, founder, Concerned Citizens of Whitesboro: As president, Blanks leads the effort to keep Whitesboro’s rich African-American history alive. With the help of former Whitesboro resident, international businessman Stedman Graham, who serves as executive director, and his partner Oprah Winfrey, CCW holds a wide range of programs and services annually. Blanks, who grew up in Whitesboro, is one of the driving forces connecting Whitesboro’s story to the larger story of African-Americans on the Atlantic Coast.
*Rev. Charles Boyer, Pastor Bethel Woodbury AME, founder Salvation and Social Justice: Boyer is one of those egregious omissions off the InsiderNJ list I mentioned. Boyer has been a force around the state, teaming with many of the state legislators mentioned in the top 100 and Richard Smith of the NAACP on marijuana legislation, prison reform for youth and police misconduct among other topics. Boyer’s tireless efforts include holding town halls recently around the state police brutality and continued to be one of the state’s leading faith leaders on these issues. He should have been ranked in the Top 25 on the InsiderNJ list, but now I’m belaboring the point.
*Rev. Kevin and Angela Brown, Pastor of The Perfecting Church and executive director of Loving Our Cities, Sewell: The Browns lead one of South Jersey’s fastest-growing and most progressive churches with numerous ministries that reach well beyond church walls and deep into South Jersey, The Perfecting Church and Loving Our Cities nonprofit continues to shape the community in ways few other houses of worship have.
*Gina Burton, president National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Southern New Jersey Chapter: A South Jersey health care executive, Burton leads this active nonprofit as it advocates with numerous programs for women and girls around the region. She also shares her talents with on other boards and the steering committee for the 21st Century Scholars Program at Camden County College.
*Suzette Charles, former Miss America, Mays Landing: Charles has given her voice to calls to improve the Miss America pageant for future contestants. The Mays Landing native has also returned to the area to lend her star power to local events to uplift the region.
*Crystal Charley Sibley, second vice president New Jersey State NAACP, president Southern Burlington chapter NAACP: A blogger and advocate, Sibley has used her energy to bring the cause of civil rights to a new generation and has worked with law enforcement, local governments and politicians on diversity concerns. Two of her blogs, Melanin & Motherhood, and Queen Village, with Dr. April Piercy, seek to uplift women.
*Warren DeShields, director of food services, Bridgeton Public Schools: As the Northeast regional director of the School Nutrition Association, DeShields is one of the foremost authorities on feeding children in an educational environment in the state. The former football and track coach continues to positively influence students-athletes through various efforts regionally.
*Natalie Devonish, dean of Atlantic Cape Community College Worthington Campus & Workforce Development, Atlantic City: The Atlantic City native founded Youth Exposure, a nonprofit dedicated to breaking the poverty cycle by empowering low-income students in grades 6-8 along with her extensive leadership and community service works. She has been honored by numerous organizations locally and regionally for her work with youth.
*J. Curtis Edwards, CEO, CompleteCare Network, Bridgeton City Council: The U.S. Navy veteran, this health care executive has a long history of community involvement, including nine years on the Bridgeton board of education before joining the Bridgeton city council. He served as secretary of Gateway Community Action Partnership and his leadership has been recognized locally and regionally by other groups and publications.
*Melissa Fox, chief operating officer, Robins Nest: Fox has provided diverse leadership and guidance for community-based health organizations for more than 20 years. She has shared to knowledge with state and national organizations as a healthcare operational expert.
*Barbara Gaba, president Atlantic Cape Community College, Mays Landing: As one of the leading African-American women heading a college or university, Gaba has guided Atlantic Cape to sustained growth since her arrival in 2018. She has been recognized for her efforts of strengthening the college along with its branches in Atlantic City and Cape May Court House.
*Reggie Gaines, Larry Gaines Stop the Violence, Camden: Gaines has not only maintained his brother’s legacy of impacting Camden with its prestigious outdoor basketball tournament, but expanded on it with community activities, a golf team and other programs. LGSTV is synonymous throughout the region with his August youth hoops classic and message of positively engaging youth and families.
*Rev. Ralph Graves Jr., founder Cornerstone Community Church, Millville: Former patrolman-turned-pastor, Graves has authored two books and is spreading the gospel, self-improvement and empowerment through a new radio show, TV show and his new nonprofit, City’s Hope Community Development Corp., which started feeding children in Cumberland County when school was out of session last summer.
*Tim Gregory, Salem City Council, founder of The Huddle: One of the progressive voices on Salem city council and is the founder of The Huddle, which engages young men throughout Salem County and beyond on the issues of fatherhood and responsibility.
*Dr. Phoebe Haddon, retiring chancellor Rutgers University-Camden: Made history six years ago as the first African-American woman to lead the campus. During that time, she encouraged enhanced engagement with the Camden community, introduced tuition reduction for students from lower-moderate income families and served as a role model to the community, faculty and staff.
*Dr. Terrence Hardee, executive director of workforce and community education, Rowan College South Jersey, Cumberland: As one of the highest-ranking African-American executives in the Rowan College South Jersey union, Hardee serves as vice president of the Gateway Community Action Partnership board as well.
*Bishop R. Fulton Hargrove II, president of the Fellowship of the Church of Atlantic City and vicinity: Pastor at Cathedral Faith Family Church, Hargrove is the longtime president of the 65-church organization that brings congregations together through events and programs. One of the biggest is its annual community awards program, which has been around for nearly 95 years.
*Dr. Oscar Holmes IV, associate professor of management, Rutgers University-Camden: Holmes is one of the driving forces for diversity in businesses in the classroom and through his work in the community in South Jersey and the Greater Philadelphia region. His research has been pointed to around the country as lesson for the importance of diversity. His new Diversity Matters podcast drives home the need for the issue even more.
*Ralph Hunter, founder, African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey: Count Hunter as another one of those egregious omissions from the InsiderNJ Power List. Hunter used his own personal collection that he started in 1973 to create one of the largest collection of African-American artifacts in all of New Jersey. Hunter, who is a history book onto himself, celebrated his 80th birthday in 2018 and still going strong. No one can talk about black history in the state without first going to his doorstep. His museum now covers two locations (Atlantic City and Newtonville) and has drawn the attention of such celebrities as Oscar winner Whoopi Goldberg.
*Quandell Igelsia, entrepreneur and founder SNJ Millennials: This bundle of energy started his first business at 16 and now is at the region’s forefront in helping other young people like him break down the entrepreneurial walls. He has been honored by numerous groups as he continues to make millennials believe in themselves as business owners.
*Brian Jackson, chief operations officer, Stockton University Atlantic City campus: Jackson is the “go-to” person at Stockton University’s new Atlantic City campus, which has been so successful in its first two years of operation that the school is planning on building a new set of dorms to accommodate interested students. Jackson has long been involved in community activities, sharing his organization skills with several local nonprofits.
*Jim Jefferson, Gloucester County Freeholder: A former collegiate baseball star and special assistant to the New Jersey General Assembly Speaker, Jefferson is one of the leaders behind Saints Prison Ministry, which reaches out, consoles and mentors those imprisoned. An appointee to the State Parole Board, he has influenced parole policies as chair of the community programs committee.
*Ciera Logan, Atlantic City attorney, NAACP Atlantic City officer: After attending college in Virginia and Georgia, Logan chose to make her mark back in her hometown of Atlantic City, serving as chair of the NAACP Atlantic City’s education and environmental and climate justice chairs, which allows her to engage with young people in the area. She is in the current class of the national NAACP NextGen Leadership Development Training Program. She is an associate with Fox Rothschild.
*Ruby Love, president of Gateway Community Action Partnership board, Treasurer, Rowan College South Jersey board: A registered nurse and minister at First Baptist Church of Jericho, Love has held public office in Deptford and has won numerous awards for her expansive community service.
*Kaya McIntosh, Willingboro Township councilwoman: One of three young political newcomers who defied the odds to win a seat on the Willingboro Township council board last summer.
*Yolanda Melville, Atlantic City attorney, president of national NAACP NextGen Alumni Leadership Council: The legal redress chair of NAACP Atlantic City is an attorney of the powerhouse law firm of Cooper Levenson. She has won various awards for her community service and involvement with hot-button issues with the branch. She has been recognized by NAACP NextGen nationally for her work.
*Anna Miller, Glassboro city councilwoman: A former collegiate athletic standout, Miller is a veteran Glassboro council member and role model. She is a member of the Glassboro High School and Gloucester College sports halls of fame and has been a volunteer coach for more than 20 years.
*Rann Miller, director of 21 Century Community Learning Center, Activist and Columnist: One of New Jersey’s important thought leaders on education and race, among other issues. His powerful speaking-truth-to-power writings, which have highlighted black men in education, Camden and many other subjects have appeared in Salon, the AlterNet, The Progressive, Education Post and Front Runner New Jersey.
*Rev. Albert Morgan, Union Baptist Temple, Bridgeton Board of Education: Morgan roots run deep, celebrating his 30th year as pastor of the 1,500-member Union Baptist Temple in 2016. That’s the largest congregation in Bridgeton and one of the largest in South Jersey. Currently serving on the school board, Morgan has also served as a Cumberland County freeholder and on Bridgeton city council.
*Rev. Dorion Morgan, attorney, Rowan College Burlington County trustee, pastor Restoration Church: Morgan community activities and connections with his Edgewater Park congregation are as diverse as anyone, working as a solo attorney, a pastor of more than 15 years at the Restoration Station with wife Joy Morgan and a board trustee at Rowan College Burlington County.
*Leslie Morris, founder, Women of the Dream: Morris turned her one-time book project into a multifaceted nonprofit geared at engaging and mentoring African-American girls in the Camden area giving them the life skills to succeed beyond what they ever imagined, much like Morris herself.
*Kaleem Shabazz, Councilman Atlantic City, President NAACP Atlantic City Branch: As a longtime local advocate and city councilman, many consider Shabazz as the person who has his ear to the heartbeat of Atlantic City’s African-American community. He has built constituencies across religious and racial lines and put together a coalition that included Gov. Phil Murphy to win the prestigious national NAACP convention for Atlantic City in 2022.
*Henrietta Shelton, founder, Chicken Bone Beach Heritage Foundation: Shelton is the driving force behind the foundation, built on the memory of Missouri Avenue Beach in Atlantic City, where blacks were segregated to, but became one of the must-travel to destinations over the years. She created the foundation to celebrate the city’s rich jazz music heritage, “pride in our Black heritage and promote family values and unity in Atlantic County.”
*Al Thomas, publisher and president, South Jersey Journal: Leader of one of the few news outlets dedicated to African-Americans left in New Jersey. Thomas is also co-founder of the Laura Wooten Institute of Civic Engagement and served on the 2019 New Jersey Black Leadership Conference Local Host Planning Committee. He is also a member of the legendary National Newspaper Publishers Association, which caters to black newspapers around the country.
*LaDaena D. Thomas, mayor, Penns Grove: Thomas stunned the political establishment last November when she defeated a 16-year incumbent to become the first African-American woman to win a mayor’s race ever in Salem County.
*Ashlee Todd, Bridgeton Board of Education: A Bridgeton native and now a local therapist won a seat on the Bridgeton school board and recently spent a year as president of the body.
*Judge Demetrica Todd-Ruiz, Vineland, Salem Municipal Courts: Todd-Ruiz made history several years ago becoming the first African-American woman to serve as a judge in Vineland. Since then, Todd-Ruiz also serves as municipal court judge in Salem and Deptford Township.
*Digna Townsend, outreach director for the U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross: She is the co-founder of the South Jersey Young Democrats Black Caucus with Fatima Heyward. She is also a board member with the Gloucester County NAACP.
*Jesse Tweedle, retiring mayor, Pleasantville: An Air Force veteran, Tweedle is the longtime mayor of Pleasantville who is retiring at the end of the year. Tweedle was impressive in showing comfort to his community and resolve after the November shooting incident at a playoff football game at Pleasantville High School.
*John E. Wallace III, mayor of Glassboro: A certified perfusionist at Cooper University Hospital by trade, Wallace has served on Glassboro’s city council since 2015 and became mayor in 2018.
*Judy Ward, Pleasantville city councilwoman, mayoral candidate, Pleasantville: Judy Ward is a longtime Pleasantville city councilwoman and currently favored to replace Jesse Tweedle as mayor, making her the first woman ever to serve in that position.
*Dr. Nyeema Watson, associate chancellor community engagement, Rutgers University-Camden: Recognized by numerous community groups and organizations for her work, the Camden native leads civic engagement initiatives at the university, which has become a national model for universities committed to civically engaged learning experiences.
*Jennifer Webb-McRae, prosecutor, Cumberland County: Yes, another egregious omission from the InsiderNJ list. The first African-American and female ever to serve as Cumberland County prosecutor when she was named in 2010, the Vineland native has become the face of law enforcement in the county while developing a reputation as a hand-on, transparent and team-building leader.
*Samantha Whitfield, Willingboro Council, Willingboro and Vicinity NAACP: Whitfield and two of her running mates beat the establishment last summer in capturing seats on the township council against the odds. As NAACP president, she has led an active chapter in address local diversity issues and other activities like delivering water for Newark residents to vital COVID-19 information to residents.
*Monika Williams Shealey: senior vice president, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Leadership, Rowan University: She made history last year being named the university’s first senior vice president of diversity. She won praise for her work as dean in Rowan’s College of Education before she was promoted to senior vice president.
*Gilbert “Whip” Wilson, Sheriff Camden County: An Air Force veteran and former New Jersey assemblyman, Wilson served as a Camden police officer before becoming a public official, going on to also serve on Camden’s city council.
*Loretta Winters, president of Gloucester County NAACP: Another egregious omission from the InsiderNJ list. In fact, the InsiderNJ Power List may be the only New Jersey African-American leadership list that doesn’t have Winters’ name on it. The longtime president of the Gloucester County NAACP and South Jersey Federal Credit Union board, she has spearheaded diversity efforts throughout South Jersey. A former councilwoman in Monroe Township and advisory member to the New Jersey Human Relations Council, she has been recognized by countless organizations for her diversity leadership efforts. The Gloucester County NAACP annual gala she leads in organizing draws political figures from around the state. The branch also is one of the most active in New Jersey.
*Dr. Tiffani Worthy, mayor, Willingboro Township: Worthy, along with the previously mentioned Samantha Whitfield and Kaya McIntosh defied the odds to win election last summer to the township board. Worthy, an Army officer veteran and wife of Rev. Carlos Worthy at the influential The Boro Church, was then elected mayor.
*Dr. Stanley Yeldell, influential associate law professor, Rowan University: For more than 45 years, Yeldell has impacted Rowan University and law enforcement agencies throughout South Jersey with his classroom work, research and guidance to police departments and agencies. As one of the nation’s foremost authorities on criminology, criminal justice, victimology and race, Yeldell has also been a mentor to countless students over his more than four decades teaching in Glassboro.
Our condolences to Dr. Reginald Smith, a longtime professor at Salem Community College, who would have been part of this list but died in November after 40 years at the school.
The challenge with this list was every time I added a name, two more names popped up. But leadership never stops growing, especially in the African-American community. We will seek to expand this list in the future.
Please contact us with anyone you believe should have been part of this list as well.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes, I had to get back into this again before Monday because I found more names I could not leave off. While I am calling them “Honorable Mention” right now for lack of a better term, they are also equally deserving.
*William Cradle, president, Public Relations Council of Atlantic City
*Rev. Damon Dukes, pastor, RockLife Church, Swedesboro
*Darrell Edmonds, founder, Tie Day is Friday, Mays Landing
*Rev. Willie Dwayne Francois III, pastor, Mount Zion Baptist Church, Pleasantville
*Earl Harvey, Publisher, AC Times
*Cedric Homes, Vineland Board of Education
*Rita and Anthony Mack, McDonald’s franchise owners, Atlantic City
*Damon Tyner, Atlantic County prosecutor
*Mary Ann Wardlow, mayor, Lawnside
*Michele Griffin, FLY Inc, Atlantic City
*Judge Jason Witcher, Bridgeton, Penns Grove, Carney Point Municipal Courts
*Steven Young, Atlantic City Peacekeepers
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