Barbara J. Kukla

Before her retirement, Barbara J. Kukla spent 43 years in journalism, most of it as editor of The Star Ledger’s popular Newark This Week section. She has written five books, including America’s Music: Jazz in Newark and Defying the Odds: Triumphant Black Women of Newark.
She holds a B.A. degree in English from Bloomfield College, an M.A. degree in sociology from Rutgers University and an honorary degree in the humanities from Essex County College. Over the years, she has been honored by more than 100 community groups.

Motto: If you light a lamp for someone, it also will brighten your own path. – Buddhist proverb

Rose Farias/the Director of Urban Policy for the Senate Majority Office

From a young age, Rosa “Rose” Farias knew she wanted to dedicate her life to public service and helping others. A first-generation Latina, Rose graduated from Rutgers University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She went on to earn her master’s degree, graduating summa cum laude from the Rutgers School of Public Affairs and Administration. She was able to parlay those experiences into government when she started working for the City of Newark over 8 years ago. She is currently the Director of Urban Policy for the Senate Majority Office.
“God grant me the serenity, to accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

Celia M. King/Chief Executive Officer
Leadership Newark

Ms. King is responsible for providing strategic leadership for a non-profit organization in the State of New Jersey, Leadership Newark, Inc. She works with the staff and board to establish long range goals and strataegies. Ms. King is also responsible for implementing plans and policies to ensure the organization accomplishes it’s mission and vision and ensuring their relevance in the community. In her role, she is accountable to provide appropriate guidance and direction for the board, staff and constituents while ensuring success for all programs Leadership Newark, Inc. offers and delivers
Favorite Quote:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world: indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.” By Margaret Mead, an anthropologist

Philip B. Alagia/Essex County Chief of Staff

Since 2003, Philip B. Alagia has served as Chief of Staff for the County of Essex under County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo. During this time, Essex County has seen unprecedented improvement and progress, from the restoration of fiscal stability to award-winning renovations of the Historic Courthouse and Park System. In addition to his overall responsibilities as Chief of Staff, Philip oversees both the Essex County Department of Corrections and the Essex County Juvenile Detention Center. Due to innovative programs with ICE and other local Governments, spearheaded by the Chief of Staff, these two departments bring an additional $50 million dollars of revenue to Essex County.

Tracey D. Syphax/VP. & COO of Phax Group Construction & Design LLC

Tracey D. Syphax is VP. & COO of Phax Group Construction & Design LLC. and Senior Managing Partner with Phax Group, LLC. Phax Group Construction & Design LLC. Is a construction company and Phax Group, LLC is a real estate development company owning and managing multiple properties throughout Mercer County NJ

Rev. Dr. Craig R. Jackson/Pastor of Agape Baptist Church

Rev. Dr. Craig R. Jackson, a.k.a. “Pastor J” is the Founder/Pastor of Agape Baptist Church in Newark, NJ. Pastor J is the husband of Shelia Jackson and they are the proud parents of five children Latricia, Devian, Brooks, Elisha, and Esaias. Through many trials and tribulations Pastor J has always had a heart for the community. Through his passion he established CJ Community Development Corporation (CJCDC). CJCDC is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization that was organized to address many of the community’s needs. 
My motto is from the bible: John 15:7 which says, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” It’s a Bible verse of strength and encouragement.

De'Andre Salter/Senior Pastor of The Tabernacle Church

 De'Andre Salter is a dynamic visionary who possesses an insightful awareness of what people need to be empowered for spiritual and natural success. As Senior Pastor of The Tabernacle Church in South Plainfield, NJ and the CEO of Professional Risk Solutions and other business ventures, he models how people can use all of their abilities to prosper and expand the Kingdom of God. His accomplishments in ministry and business have been profiled on FOX, CBS, NBC, Black Enterprise, The Wall Street Journal and many other media outlets. In 2005, he was recognized by The Network Journal as one of the top 40 Black Executives in America
Matthew 6:33—But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

Richard Suarez/President of Local 1235 of the International Longshoremen's Assoc.


Richard Suarez


President of Local 1235 of the International Longshoremen’s Association

Mr. Suarez was born and raised in Newark, NJ. He attended Ann St. School and East Side High School both in the Ironbound section of Newark. Then he attended Kean University before becoming a longshoreman in Port Newark & Elizabeth in 1979. As a longshoreman he worked through the ranks. He started when Cargo passing through the ports was still loose, Container was still something new. He worked as a laborer to machine operator to instructor then became a Foreman. In 2012 he was appointed then Elected to President of ILA Local 1235. Just recently elected second term as President. He’s also on the St. Barnabas Advisory Board for the past 3 years. Also recently elected Vice President of the Atlantic Coast District for the International Longshoremen’s Association.



A successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at them



Felicia Osborne/C.E.O of Bethel Family & Youth Resource Center

Felicia Osborne is the first born of Pastor Reginald C. Osborne, Jr. and Dr. Marian Osborne. First before all things, she loves and praises the Lord! She graduated with honors when she obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Management of Information Systems from New York Institute of Technology. As an inductee of Chi Sigma Iota Honor Society, she continues to press on as she completes her graduate degree from Walden University in Minnesota. She recently retired from AT&T as a Senior Metrics & Reporting Analyst. To positively influence her community and maintain the dream of her parental role models she is determined to acquire her own LCADC and CCS while humbly executing as the CEO of Bethel Family & Youth Resource Center, Inc. Bethel Counseling Services. She continues to be the Senior Pastor of the Church called Bethel Worldwide Love & Resource Outreach Ministries, Inc.

MOTTO: "Reaching the Lost at Any Cost!

Lisa Durden

Lisa Durden is brilliantly outspoken and has blazed a trail in news and pop culture with her intelligent, straight-talking commentary as a television personality, content creator, celebrity blogger and motivational speaker. Raised in Newark, New Jersey and a proud graduate of Seton Hall University with a degree in journalism, Durden is a subject matter expert on many issues that include entertainment, celebrity, social justice, politics, women’s issues, education and race. She appears as a contributor on such nationally syndicated programs as Fox News Channel’s The Kelly File with Megyn Kelly, HLN’s The Daily Share with Melissa Knowles, iHeart Radio’s American Now with Meghan McCain, Fox 5 News Live with Ernie Enastos, Arise TV, PIX 11 Morning News and WABC Radio’s Geraldo Rivera Show, to name a few.
My favorite motto is: "Success Is the Greatest Revenge!"

Dhiren Shah

Dhiren Shah has been a local business owner in Essex County since 1985. He is the Publisher of Local Talk Weekly Newspaper, and is behind Local Talk Printing and Local Talk Community Foundation, which has awarded over $5,500 in scholarships to Essex County students.
He has received numerous community service awards from the State of New Jersey Senate and Assembly, Garden State Cricket League, churches and other organizations, including being named an Ambassador for Peace.
For over 40 years, Dhiren has been married to his lovely wife, Asha. The couple has two sons and one granddaughter.

Our Lifetime Achievement Awardees

Our Excellence In Business & Community Service Awardees

Outstanding Journalism and Community Service Awardees

Excellence in Leadership & Community Service



A native of Newark, New Jersey, Charles N. Hall, Jr. graduated from Weequahic High School, and joined the New Jersey National Guard Signal Corps and served for six (6) years. During his college years at Jersey City Community College, where in 1987 he graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science Degree, Charles has always held a full-time job. He has worked as a retail store employee, a factory worker, a clerk in public government, a corrections officer at Northern State Prison and a part-time clerical worker at Local 108. These varying jobs gave him an appreciation for the working class.

Charles’ leadership ability has been recognized by both National and State organizations. In 2000, he was elected to the Advisory Board of the RWDSU and as a 1st Vice President of the Industrial Union Council. In 2002, he was elected to the UFCW Advisory Board. In January 2008, he was appointed as a Co-chair to the UFCW Constitution Committee. Charles was elected as a member of the Executive Board of the NJ AFL-CIO in June 2008. In 2012, he was elected to serve as 1st Vice President of Essex West-Hudson Labor Council. In January 2013, he was elected to serve as Vice President of the UFCW Executive Board.

Charles N. Hall, Jr.

Lae M. Hutcheson



Lae M. Hutcheson became the sixth Executive Director, in September/1997, of The CHEN School, Inc. in Newark, New Jersey. The school, which was formed as a result of the collaboration of the Council for Higher Education in Newark (CHEN) provided early child care and education for pre-school age children.


Founded in 1973, the school as one of the first to mainstream pre-school children with mild development difficulties into a regular school program, thus providing a more comprehensive learning environment.


Over the years, this concept was incorporated into other pre-schools as well as school bases programs.

Ms. Hutcheson’s affiliation with the school began at the age of five, when her mother was the first

Director.  She participated in its after school program and later, as a teenager, volunteered during the summer months assisting in the classroom and office , where she displayed excellent organizational skills.


Upon graduation from high school, Ms. Hutcheson was employed in various positions, i.e. Information and Referral Specialist at the Newark Office of Children and training technician at Newark Day Center.  In 1993, she received her Dental Assistant Certification from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.


Our Vision is to ‘Save the lives of children and Re-Direct them towards healthier lifestyles; while developing productive men and women who will pursue a better quality of life.”