Feature Photo: Former New Jersey Secretary of State DeForest Buster Soaries speaks to a sold out crowd at the Atlantic City NAACP Freedom Fund Breakfast on Saturday, April 30. Photo by Nastassia Davis
By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH
ATLANTIC CITY – The Atlantic City NAACP greeted a sold out crowd at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Saturday (April 30) in recognition of honorees during its annual Freedom Fund Breakfast in the Hollywood Ballroom.
The event with more than 300 people was a mix of NAACP supporters, prominent businesses and many of the top lawmakers in the region and state. Banquet chair Rosie Segura said the breakfast had been sold out since early April but people continued to call through Friday inquiring about tickets.
“This was a journey,” Segura told Front Runner New Jersey as the ballroom filled Saturday. “I’m really happy for the turnout. I did this with love because of the NAACP. We’re all volunteers. We don’t get paid for our services but I’m a big advocate of community service. That’s why I’m here today. That’s why we got to have this money for events today. And we just thank everybody for coming. We appreciate their support to help us make an impact on our community.”
*New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy
*Matthew Doherty, former Casino Reinvestment Development Authority’s executive director
*Anthony Brower, nonprofit leader
*William Hawkes, radio station owner
*Indria Lynn Owens, youth leader
*Kristina Johnson Carr, special recognition
Shabazz also gave his President’s Award to Charisse Fizer, the retiring chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer at AtlantiCare, and Richard Smith, President of the New Jersey State Conference of the NAACP.
Many presidents from local chapters attended, including Marcus Sibley, president of the Southern Burlington County chapter, with his wife Crystal Charley Sibley, who serves as the second vice president of the New Jersey State Conference; Olivia Caldwell, president of the Pleasantville-Mainland Chapter and Quanette McNeal, of the Cape May County Chapter.
Some of the lawmakers attending included Assemblymen Antwan McClellan, Assemblyman and former Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian, Assemblywoman Claire Swift and State Sen. Vince Polistina, Atlantic City School Board member Ruth Byard, and Atlantic City councilman Aaron “Sporty” Randolph, among others.
“[The attendance] is a great show of respect for the chapter,” Segura said. “As well as the politicians and the community residents, and we have so many sponsors, from the casino industry. They are backing us as well. They want to make a statement about equity and social justice, too. We’re really happy for everyone here showing their support.”
Former New Jersey Secretary of State DeForest Buster Soaries gave a rousing keynote speech. See his comments on Front Runner’s Facebook Live video here:
In one of the highlights of the breakfast, Atlantic County NAACP officer Maryam Amr announced that during the breakfast, the attendees contributed more than $4,000 for the branch’s scholarship fund. The NAACP announces local scholarships annually to help needy students attend college.
Segura said she hopes people walked away from the breakfast with a sense of what the NAACP is going to help the community and the positive ways it is shaping the future of Atlantic City and the region.
“I hope people walk away with the idea what the NAACP stands for,” Segura said of the breakfast. “Rev. Soaries is a great speaker and had a great message to bring. The national conference is really big. It’s going to bring millions of dollars into the city of Atlantic City and help our economy.”
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