New Brunswick, NJCommunity leaders, educators, students, and social-justice advocates flocked to The Richard Stockton College of NJ campus center on a blistery January 9 morning to hear tomorrow’s leaders and today’s change agents reflect on the resonating words of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: “If the people of goodwill…fail to act now, history will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but the appalling silence and indifference of the good people.”

Now celebrating its 33rd year, the American Conference on Diversity’s Southern NJ Region Community Network’s Annual MLK Brotherhood-Sisterhood Breakfast was a time to stop, reflect, and speak up about social-justice issues of the past, present, and future.

This year, with the recent murder of a seventh-grader in Atlantic City, keynote speaker and network vice chair of membership Kaleem Shabazz began the event with a special prayer to the slain teen. “As we gather here together…we recognize that the American Conference on Diversity is working to mend our communities and neighborhoods,” said Shabazz.

President and CEO Elizabeth Williams-Riley reminded the audience of the importance of being vocal when witnessing injustices. “Dr. King started his work when he was only 16 years old, about the same age as many of you in this room,” she said. “That’s when he began thinking and dreaming and I want you to think about how empowering it is to turn your dreams into reality and make a difference.”

Keynote speaker Anthony Bland, NJ State Coordinator for the Office of School Preparedness and Emergency Planning, shared a similar message: “If we don’t speak out about things that are broke, we can’t make this world a better place.” Mr. Bland’s talk set the stage for a series of powerful presentations on topics ranging from violence to bullying by 11 outstanding Atlantic County student leader panelists.

“Dr. King and countless other leaders in history…were not afraid to challenge the status quo that wrought inequality on the masses of their day. They spoke the words of promise and history remembers them because they had the courage to speak up,” said Atlantic City High School student Keesha Fuqua.

“At some point we will encounter that defining moment, that opportunity to take a stand and get involved, and to make a difference. I challenge us all that the days of being silent, vulnerable, and tolerating the unjust must end,” added Eshani Choksi of Absegami High School.

Other student panelists included:

Samantha Carty (Hammonton High School)

Rhea Christmas (Egg Harbor Township High School)

Na’Mira Crosby (Pleasantville High School)

Dominique Coleman (Mainland Regional High School)

Chloe Morales (Oakcrest High School)

Adwoa Nantwi (Saint Joseph High School)

Mia Negron (Cedar Creek High School)

Leah Palmer (CharterTech High School)

Giovanni Paul (Holy Spirit High School)

For photos of the student panelists and speakers courtesy of The Richard Stockton College of NJ, visit Flickr set.

Special thanks to the following sponsors: Atlantic Cape Community College, Atlantic City Alumnae Chapter Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Atlantic County Utilities Authority, AtlantiCare Family Success Centers, AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, Community Quest, Garden State Outdoors, The Links, Revel Casino Hotel, Richard Stockton College of NJ, Shore Medical Center, South Jersey Industries, Theta Kappa Omega-Alpha Kappa Alpha, Charles Garrett, Dr. Juanita High, Marvel Hill, Dianne Lennon, Riaz Rajput, and Maria I. Torres.

In response to the recent teen murder in Atlantic City, our Southern NJ Regional Network held a community rally January 13 at the Union Baptist Temple. If you want to make a difference in your community, consider the numerous ways you can get involved with the American Conference on Diversity. Learn more here: http://americanconferenceondiversity.org/get-involved.

About the American Conference on Diversity

The programs, services, and initiatives of the American Conference on Diversity are among the most important work focused on creating a more inclusive society. It is the unfinished business of living in a highly diverse nation: educating and empowering our next generation of leaders; enhancing our workplaces; and helping to create inclusive communities. The American Conference on Diversity, which has been serving schools, organizations, workplaces, and communities in New Jersey since 1948, builds on a historic mission and creates programs and activities relevant and vital to 21st Century life. It is a journey we can all take together. The American Conference on Diversity operates Regional Community Networks covering all of New Jersey. Visit www.AmericanConferenceonDiversity.org to learn more.


Gail Zoppo

Media Relations Consultant

109 Church Street

New Brunswick, NJ 08901