Camden East NAACP Celebrates Excellence With Visionary and Valor Awards


Photo of Lloyd Henderson, president of the Camden County East NAACP by Monique Howard.


BERLIN — On April 27, Camden County East NAACP acknowledged pillars of the community under gleaming chandeliers at the Paris Caterers in Berlin.

On an evening filled with heartfelt speeches and stirring music, honorees received the Visionary Leadership Awards and Valor Awards. The local chapter was founded by Paul C. Harris Sr. in 1989, and the evening’s festivities not only honored impactful contributions to the community but also commemorated its 35th anniversary.

At the 2024 Visionary Awards Program, the Visionary Leadership Awards were presented to Raymond Watkins Jr. (Winslow Township Deputy Mayor and Committeeman), E. Deionne ThrBak, (Innovative Programs and Community Partnership Director), Emma L. Waring, (Cherry Hill African American Civic Association’s Immediate Past President), Brenda A. Riley, (Women of Zeal United Founder and CEO), Reverend Florence Toni Still, (Associate Pastor of Kaighn Avenue Baptist Church), Michael A. Wiggins, (MWPHGL State of New Jersey 91st Grand Master) and Willie A. Smith II (Enterprise Project Management SJI Vice President).

Photo by Monique Howard.

In conclusion, Kevin Jones, Youth Council Political Action Chair, and Jason D. Witcher, Retired Municipal Court Judge, received the Valor Awards during the ceremony.

In addition to founding the Camden County East NAACP, Paul C. Harris Sr. also mentored President Lloyd D. Henderson to take up the mantle and continue the legacy.

“Our goal is to eradicate inequality and racism,” Henderson said. “We’re going to be in existence until that is wiped out.”

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Henderson and 1st Vice President Maisha Aziz both gave speeches during the ceremony. Aziz also serves as the state advisor for youth and college chapters in New Jersey as well as for the Camden County East NAACP youth council.

When considering an exemplary figure of representation, one honoree in particular came to mind.

“Judge Witcher, who was a judge on the municipal court bench, came out and said, ‘Hey, these people are being treated differently than others,’” Aziz reflected. “So that embodies what the NAACP represents; standing up and helping to make sure there’s representation for people who don’t have a voice or don’t have a way to make their voice heard.”

In 2010, Jason D. Witcher was presented with the opportunity to become a judge in Millville Municipal Court. According to Witcher, despite a significant decrease in salary, he felt obligated to accept the position as there had never been an African American judge in Cumberland or Salem counties prior.

“The things I was dealing with as a judge were extremely challenging,” he admitted. “I saw so many people in the community where I served suffer from economic repression, social issues, legal issues, and lack of opportunity.”

Not deterred by the pressures of living in the public eye and racial isolation, Witcher remembered the value of being able to impact lives.

“The defining moment that brought me to this place tonight was seeing a clear injustice taking place for people who were primarily Latina ethnic background, and I stood for what a judge should stand for, which is justice,” he stated.

Photo of retired Judge Jason Witcher by Monique Howard.

“That moment changed my entire life, and my family’s life because it led to a level of retribution and retaliation against me by the same people who should stand for justice which led me into my retirement.“

Presently Witcher is attending Lancaster Bible College and is enrolled in a master’s degree program in Christian Apologetics. He continues to seek the betterment of others and is hoping to start a men’s prison ministry.

Although his career as a judge came to an unexpected end, the wisdom he gained through his journey is invaluable. He felt honored to receive the Valor Award and considered the moment bittersweet.

“Courage is costly but freedom is never free,’ he said. “Justice is never achieved without sacrifice. At some point, we have to decide where we stand.”

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