Awardees, Boykin-Towns Highlight Atlantic City NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet


Atlantic City NAACP award winners from April 29 Freedom Fund banquet.

By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media

ATLANTIC CITY — More than 500 people filled one of the main ballrooms at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City in another successful Freedom Fund banquet held by the Atlantic City Branch of the NAACP.

The banquet is annually one of the best-attended Freedom Fund banquets in South Jersey and is the major fundraiser for the Atlantic City NAACP and its scholarship fund.

It was the first Freedom Fund banquet with Rosie Segura as president. Kaleem Shabazz, the former president of the Atlantic City NAACP branch, played host at the event. It was one of the rare occasions that the NAACP honored a husband and wife at the same time — Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small Sr. and his wife, Atlantic City School Superintendent La’Quetta Small.

The Small family brought their children up on stage in a moment when both received their awards from Shabazz, who is a longtime councilman in Atlantic City.

Other NAACP honorees included:

  • Bart Blatstein, owner of Showboat Hotel and Tower Investments, President Award
  • Kenneth Calemmo, Jr., chief operating officer of Cooper Levenson, Business Award
  • Burnell Brown, of the Atlantic City Jazz Festival, Entrepreneur Award
  • Christian Ragland, assistant vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion, AtlantiCare, Health Award
  • Laura Terrero, national accounts director, Visit Atlantic City, and pastor of Bajo Su Gloria Casa De Dios, Special Recognition

Karen Boykin-Towns, vice chair of the NAACP national board of directors served as the keynote speaker and gave an inspiring and memorable speech, infusing stories of her own family history of overcoming great odds to what many Blacks still face today.

The former Pfizer executive who is the founder, president and CEO of Encore Strategies LLC, joked the event was “date night” for her and her husband Darryl Towns, a former New York State Assemblyman, who keeps his own busy scheduled but sat by her side that evening.

Keynote speaker Karen Boykin Towns, of the NAACP national board of directors.

It was Boykin-Towns second trip to Atlantic City within a year. As a member of the national board, she introduced Vice President Kamala Harris during the NAACP national convention at the Atlantic City Convention Center last summer.

Atlantic County Prosecutor William Reynolds surprised Shabazz with its Outstanding Community Partner Award toward the end of the program.

Near the end of the program, William “Speedy” Marsh to promote the Police Athletic League Gala set for June 22.

“This is a great event for the NAACP and the city,” said Geoff Dorsey, owner of Dorsey Construction and a candidate for the Ward 6 Atlantic City council election. Sitting next to Shabazz was Atlantic County Board Commissioner Ernest Coursey, who is also the chief of staff for Small.

Some of the other officials seen included Anthony Brower, president of Friends in Action; Victor Carmona, Pleasantville city council and state senate candidate; Mandy Days-Chapman, principal of Atlantic City High School, municipal chair, Atlantic City Democratic Committee; William Cradle, president of the Public Relations Council of Atlantic City; Celeste Fernandez, former Atlantic County Commissioner candidate; Alphonso Harrell, candidate for State Assembly; Bert Lopez, president of the Hispanic Association of Atlantic County; Stephanie Marshall, Atlantic City councilwoman; Quanette McNeal, president of the Cape May County NAACP; Chief James Sarkos, Atlantic City Police Chief; Pamela Thomas-Field, former Atlantic City mayoral candidate; Thelma Witherspoon, Hamilton Township committeewoman; and Muhammad “Anjum’ Zia, Atlantic City councilman.

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