The Urban League Of Union County Celebrates Growth And Community Empowerment With 47th Annual Gala

2023 Honorees Perfectly Encapsulate Theme Of “Empowering Communities through Second Chances and Opportunity

UNION, N.J., Jan. 5, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — Ahead of the holiday season, the Urban League of Union County gathered together to celebrate its growth and the excellence exemplified by its members with the 47th Annual Equal Opportunity Day Dinner and Gala. Held at Kean University’s STEM Building in Union, NJ, the event saw the National Urban League President/CEO Marc Morial and the Urban League Of Union County Board Chairwoman Dr. Cassandra Murphy-McCray all joining the program, making for a special treat and recognition for attendees and honorees alike. The evening culminated in a group of five entrepreneurs and community leaders being recognized for their various contributions to Union County and beyond.

Following opening remarks by Dr. Murphy-McCray, the Urban League of Union County President/CEO Crystal Orr provided a comprehensive overview of the Urban League’s programs, emphasizing new initiatives such as free mental health counseling and the Youth Entrepreneurship Program. She went on to express her excitement about the organization’s growth, citing a remarkable 50% increase in attendance and fundraising efforts from the previous year. President Orr also highlighted the crucial role all the honorees have played in providing resources, opportunities, education, and support to those in need of a second chance. Attendees were also treated to live jazz performances throughout the evening, courtesy of Lynette Sheard and Band.

In a pre-recorded message, President Morial echoed those sentiments, emphasizing the importance of local affiliates to the broader mission of the National Urban League. The honorees – Dr. Darcella Patterson Sessomes, Dr. Margaret McMenamin, Kyle Briggs, Union County Savings Bank, and Blessed Ministries Incorporated – were recognized in each of the Urban League of Union County’s five designated award categories for their work in partnership with and support of the Urban League’s 2023 goal of “Empowering Communities through Second Chances and Opportunity” (See below for a full list of awards and details on each honoree’s work). Before leaving, attendees were tasked with two vital calls to action. Keynote speaker and SiriusXM Urban View Personality, Lurie Daniel-Favors, Esq., called for a commitment to institutional change and structural development, urging attendees to align their purpose with the needs of their communities; while President Orr encouraged everyone to join the “Road to 80” by becoming a partner, member, or donor as the evening served as the unofficial kickoff to the Urban League of Union County’s 80th Anniversary in 2024.

The Urban League of Union County’s 47th Annual Equal Opportunity Day Dinner and Gala was sponsored by Platinum Sponsor Elizabethtown Gas; Gold Sponsor Union County Savings Bank; and Kobo Products, Kean University John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy and Research, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, Optimum, Housing Authority for The City Of Elizabeth (HACE), The Antoine Law Firm, Price-Cates Dispute Resolution, Tamara Waye, and Diageo.

About The 2023 Honorees:

  • Whitney M. Young Award: Dr. Darcella Patterson Sessomes – Chief of Programming and Reintegration Services, New Jersey Department of Corrections. Dr. Sessomes leads an innovative re-entry initiative in the New Jersey prisons to ensure those who were recently released have the supportive services they need to succeed.
  • Ella S. Teal President Award: Dr. Margaret McMenamin – President, Union College of Union County. Dr. McMenamin was presented the award by Ella Teal who was the former past President/CEO of the Urban League of Union County, in recognition of her transformative leadership at the College and commitment to diversity and inclusion.
  • “I Am Empowered” Award: Kyle Briggs – Entrepreneur and Owner of 2 Much Sauce Restaurant. Mr Briggs received the award in recognition of his dedicated service to the Union County community.
  • Partnership Award: Union County Savings Bank, for their partnership in fostering and supporting financial literacy empowerment throughout Union County.
  • Partnership Award: Blessed Ministries Incorporated, for their partnership in creating employment opportunities and job training for the re-entry population.

About Urban League of Union County:
The Urban League of Union County, founded in 1944, is a non-profit community service organization dedicated to enabling African Americans and other disadvantaged individuals to secure economic self-reliance, parity, power, and civil rights. The organization provides essential services in education, housing, health, employment, re-entry, and advocacy.

Media Contact:
Syreta Oglesby


SOURCE Urban League of Union County