Hard Rock, Aaron ‘Sporty’ Randolph Among Awardees at AC NAACP Freedom Fund Gala


Atlantic City NAACP Kaleem Shabazz, Aaron "Sporty" Randolph and Rosie Segura.


ATLANTIC CITYThe Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City and City Council President Aaron “Sporty” Randolph were among the awardees last month at the Atlantic City NAACP Freedom Fund Gala.

The event, celebrated at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, honored individuals, groups and businesses annually who have made an impact on the local African American community in various field, including government, education and health.

Hard Rock Atlantic City President George Goldhoff said he was proud to accept the NAACP award on behalf of his employees in the city, which brings world-class entertainment and hospitality to the Jersey Shore.

“The NAACP and the Hard Rock share so many universal truths, love all serve all, which is taking care of each other, treating each other like neighbors, all as one, which means that we all come from the Creator,” Goldhoff told Front Runner New Jersey at the gala. “We love each other, so it’s an honor to be honored by the NAACP.”

Goldhoff said Hard Rock has 400 locations in some 70 countries and through them all, it has a local feel to it, caring deeply about their employees and the communities they serve.

“We absolutely believe in inclusion, equity and diversity,” Goldhoff said. “It is what’s in some of our pillars and cornerstones. I’m simply the spokesperson tonight and accepting the award on behalf of the company, our owners the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and our 4,000 strong team members.”

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Randolph was the first awardee to see sparklers go off on stage in the Hard Rock banquet hall when he received his award from President Kaleem Shabazz and Vice President Rosie Segura. It was a rare time the long-time councilman was surprised. The first time was when Shabazz, a friend and fellow Ward 3 city councilman, surprised him a week in advance when he told him he would receive the honor.

Sparklers go off as Aaron “Sporty” Randolph receives award from Atlantic City NAACP’s Rosie Segura and Kaleem Shabazz.

“Yes, he snuck that one in on me,” Randolph, who has been on council since 2010, said after receiving the award that night. “It is an honor to receive this one from the NAACP and its something I’ll always remember.”

A life-long Atlantic City resident, Randolph has long been known as an advocate for Atlantic City. He has worked to improve the First Ward, which he represents, and the entire city.

Randolph has garnered new attention with the legal troubles surrounding Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small, who faces charges from the Atlantic City Prosecutor’s Office in a family domestic violence matter. If Small is forced to leave office, Randolph to temporarily replace him as mayor.

Stockton University professor Dr. Patricia Reid-Merritt received the chapter’s first Lt. Gov. Sheila Y. Oliver Award. The NAACP created the award in honor of the first Black woman to serve as lieutenant governor in the State of New Jersey before dying in office last year.

Shabazz called Reid-Merritt a “shero” in Atlantic County for leading a national movement to recognize civil rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer. Reid-Merritt, distinguished professor of Africana Studies and Social Work, said she was humbled to become the standard bearer of the new award by the Atlantic City NAACP.

“I’m overwhelmed and feel very gracious to see your award,” Reid-Merritt told Front Runner New Jersey.com after receiving the award. “I was a tremendous fan and supporter of Sheila Oliver because she was a trailblazer. I’m honored to now receive an award in her name.”

Other NAACP awardees included:

  • Dr. Olatunji Peter Kuponiyi, of Island Medical Associates, Health Award
  • Dr. Inua A. Momodu, AtlantiCare Health System, Health Award
  • Cathy Burke, co-founder of the Irish Pub and Inn, Business Award
Cathy Burke (second from right) is joined by Anthony Brower, Kaleem Shabazz and Rosie Segura.
  • Brenda Brathwaite, Atlantic City educator, Education Award
  • Atlantic Cape Community College Worthington Campus, Community Service Award
  • Chicken Bone Beach Foundation, Community Service Award

Throughout the evening, D’Bra Powell and the Tony Day Band provided the BGM for the event, playing live R&B and Smooth Jazz.

Atlantic City NAACP officers include Shabazz as president, Segura as vice president and Freedom Fund banquet chair, Patricia Collins as treasurer, Linda Steele as assistant treasurer and Anjail Shabazz as secretary.

Executive Committee members include:  Loukeeler Bell, Anthony Brower, Constance Days-Chapman, Natalie Devonish, Juda Dorrington, Geoffrey Dorsey, Charles Goodman, Michael P. Johnson, Robert Lee, Rev. Stafford Miller, Christian Ragland, Dr. Jon Regis and retire Police Chief Henry White.

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