As the first governor of New Jersey to attend the annual African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey (AACCNJ) Black history month gala last week, Democrat Phil Murphy offered hope and inspiration to thousands of local and regional minority and women business enterprises.
More than 200 people attended the the Eighth Anniversary Circle of Achievement Awards gala —an annual event hosted by the AACCNJ that lauds the business, professional, educational and political achievements of notable African Americans across the state. The theme of the posh event–held in the ballroom at the Venetian in Garfield, NJ., was “Bridging the Gap” and featured several state and local dignitaries.
The keynote speaker was veteran stage and screen actor Harry Lennix. This year’s award recipients included: Louise Calloway, Historian and Founder of the Underground Railroad Educational Center in Burlington County, NJ. Calloway received the Community Service award; State Senator Sandra Cunningham (D-Jersey City) received the Political Award; Sheriff Mildred Scott of Middlesex County, NJ, received the Political Award. Laura Wooten of Princeton, NJ, received the Community Service Award and Obie McKenzie, Managing Director of Black Rock received the Business Award.
During a brief speech to the crowd, Murphy acknowledged the continuing success of the AACCNJ under the leadership of president John Harmon. In addition, the newly elected governor touted his on-going commitment and campaign promise to establish financial resources and other initiatives to support MWBE’s—most notably a public bank in New Jersey that will assist MWBE’s with funding and capital to establish and grow businesses in New Jersey and the region. “I want a public bank that will invest in New Jersey and not Wall Street,” he said.
Murphy, a former executive with Wall Street powerhouse Goldman Sachs, is a critic of the former administration of Chris Christie, said the number of M/WBE’s in New Jersey has decreased in the past eight years. “The previous administration failed minority and small businesses in New Jersey,” he said.
Attendees commended Murphy for his seemingly steadfast commitment to M/WBE’s. “He’s committed to helping minority and women owned businesses grow and thrive in the state—especially with his push to legalize the use of marijuana,” said LaQuay Juel, president of Obsidian Elite Investment Association in Trenton, NJ.
Lastly, AACCNJ Chairman of the Board of Directors Hosea Johnson said the chamber will continue to strive to influence business friendly legislation in all levels of state and local government. “We will continue to provide our members with cost-efficient and economically empowering initiatives to run and maintain their businesses,” he said.
(Article written by Glenn Townes)