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 October 7-8, 2021

Welcome. Thank you for attending the 39th Annual New Jersey Black Leadership Conference. For the next two days, you will hear from the Garden State's most influential leaders who will explore the major issues facing you and our state during these most challenging times. While many of our sessions were pre-recorded, they remain timely and provide you with the information you need to engage our communities. Please feel free to network with each other, share your thoughts in the chat and learn more about our sponsors who support our endeavors. We know you will learn a lot during these days. Don't keep it to yourself! Share!

 There is a lot to digest. Below you will see the conference agenda and links to workshops and Mid-Day Plenaries. It is suggested that you keep this page tab open for easy access to the conference and our workshops. 


Rising Beyond the Pandemic: 

Leading the Way Forward, Developing Resilience

and Demanding Transformation


Conference Information and Links


Thursday, October 7, 2021

9:00 AM




10:15 AM

WORKSHOP SESSION I (Concurrent Sessions)


Workshop 1 | Economic Parity: Education Beyond the Pandemic


The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on how schooling

is done.  With the closing and re-opening of schools, an array of academic, social,

and emotional challenges has impacted students, as well as teachers.  This workshop

will explore what educational professionals are doing to assist students to catch-up

academically and transition back to in-person learning.  There will be a discussion

about the need to focus on mental health, social and emotional learning and

classroom practices that help students to succeed beyond the pandemic.



Brenda R. Lee, Greater Newark Alliance of Black School Educators, Inc. 



Dr. Stephanie James Harris, NJ Amistad Commission

Valerie Wilson, Newark Board of Education

Wilhelmina Holder, Secondary Parents Council


Workshop 2 | Criminal Justice Reform: Community Impact on Criminal Justice Reform

Mass incarceration of people of color in New Jersey has damaged the lives and

livelihoods of families and whole communities.  There is a need for more investment

in public safety initiatives in these communities.  This workshop will explore the

criminal justice reform initiatives that have been proposed with the influence of

members of the community.



Ashanti D. Jones, New Jersey Institute for Social Justice



Major Carla Thomas, New Jersey State Police

Dr. Marilyn Cooper, Newark Branch of NAACP

Jiles Ship, New Jersey Chapter, NOBLE



Workshop 3 | Health: Sick of High Prescription Drug Prices

Americans are sick and tired of paying the highest prices in the world for their

prescription drugs. Americans can't afford to pay more than 3 times what people in

other countries pay for the same medicine. Too many Garden State residents are

forced to choose between filling life-saving prescriptions and paying rent, buying

food and meeting other critical needs. It is time for action at the state and federal

level to lower prescription drug costs. Join AARP NJ to discuss the impact of high

drug prices on your wallet, your health – and the reforms needed to lower drug prices




Lavelle Jones, AARP NJ State President (confirmed)



Dr. Jubril Oyeyemi, Cherry Hill Free Clinic

Danielle Combs, NAACP New Jersey State Conference

Evelyn Liebman, AARP NJ


Workshop | Hot Topics: Say the Word: Reparations

The State of New Jersey was known as the “slave state of the north”.  As a result of

this history, Black New Jerseyans face some of the worst racial disparities in the

United States.  This workshop will explore the legislation (S322/A711) to establish a

reparations task force and steps needed for the State of New Jersey to take

responsibility for its role in the slave trade and repair the consequences of slavery. 



Dr. Lanisha Makle-Ridley, New Jersey Black Issues Convention



Dr. Ron Daniels, Institute of the Black World 21st Century

Ryan Haygood, New Jersey Institute for Social Justice

Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter, 35th Legislative District



Keynote Speaker: Michellene Davis, Esq., National Medical Fellowships


WORKSHOP SESSION II (Concurrent Sessions)

Workshop 1 | Economic Parity: Clean Energy and Jobs

During his State of the State Address, Governor Phil Murphy provided that moving to

clean, renewable “green” energy will create a boost to job creation in the state.

Green investments such as clean energy, improvement of water and community

infrastructure, building resilience to climate disasters, funding parks and trails, and

improving public transportation will bring significant job growth, as well as

economic, environmental and health benefits to residents of the State of New Jersey.

This workshop will explore the work that needs to be done within our Black

communities to prepare residents to meet the challenge of the “new” green economy

and the job creation that is on the horizon.



Rev. Ronald Tuff, GreenFaith



Duwan Bogert, Workforce Development Board of Passaic County

Richard Thigpen, PSEG

Crystal Pruitt, New Jersey Department of Clean Energy


Workshop 2 | Criminal Justice Reform: Civilian Complaint Review Boards

In recent years, we have witnessed abusive, dehumanizing behavior and excessive

use of force by law enforcement officials throughout the United States.  This

workshop will discuss the mission of and need for civilian complaint review boards,

and the powers that these boards must have to address these acts of misconduct while

maintaining fairness, accountability, and cultivating better relations between law

enforcement and the communities they are sworn to protect and serve.



Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter, New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus



Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds Jackson, 15th Legislative District



Workshop 3 |Health: Impact of COVID-19 on Black Mental Health

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected Black people due to legal,

social, health, and economic inequalities.  The stresses related to job loss, death,

financial instability, food insecurity and loss of housing that resulted from the

pandemic had a traumatic effect on the Black community.  This workshop will

discuss the impact that social distancing had on the mental health and emotional well

being of adults and children.  The panelists will discuss opportunities that may be

created to enhance community connections online or outdoor spaces, ways to

improve services and safe spaces for children and adults, and ways to ensure access

to services while improving existing mental health programs, and address policies

and systems that maintain structural racism.



Sheila Thorne, Multicultural Healthcare Marketing Group, LLC

Dr. Winston Price, Past President, National Medical Association


Workshop | Hot Topics: Black Robes, No Black Faces

This workshop will discuss the vacancies on the Superior Court Bench with attention

to vicinages with high populations of Black New Jerseyans AND why we need more

vacancies filled with Black Judicial candidates.



Carolyn Chang, Association of Black Women Lawyers



Senator Ronald L. Rice, 28th Legislative District

Dean Burrell, Garden State Bar Association

Assemblywoman Linda Carter, 22nd Legislative District


2:30 PM 

FORUM I: Re-imagining Public Safety NEW!!!

The purpose of re-emerging public safety is to rapidly reimagine and reconstruct the

public safety system in New Jersey. Many people think only of a police response

when they hear public safety.  Public safety is more than a police response.  Public

safety means empowering communities, especially historically marginalized

communities, to participate in shaping what public safety looks like, and have the

resources to address critical social problems, such as access to housing, food security,

transportation, and healthcare.  And it means minimizing the harms that often

accompany policing- such as uses of force and arrest.  This workshop will bring

together community members, advocates, police, social service providers, and

government officials to discuss the issues, what public safety means, and how best to

achieve re-imagining public safety in New Jersey’s Black communities.



Lanisha Makle-Ridley, Ph.D 




James C. Williams

Fair Share Housing Center


Darcella Patterson Sessomes

NJDOC Assistant Commissioner


Zayid Muhammad

Poet and Activist


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