New Jersey leaders Natalya Johnson, Brenda Ross-Dulan and Marty Small will headline the list of honorees at the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey’s annual gala, to be held Feb. 16, 2023.
The event, held in conjunction with Black History Month, also will honor two national figures: Kenneth Bentley, the CEO of the Advocates Professional Golf Association Tour, and Officer Harry Dunn, a 13-year veteran of the U.S. Capitol Police.
The 2023 gala’s theme, “Raising the Bar,” speaks both to the historical standard of excellence and the standard the honorees have each risen to meet in their chosen fields. It also speaks to a challenge in the marketplace for the mainstream to honor Black excellence with intentionality and the requisite level of respect due to the resilience of Black people in the face of structural inequities and their relevance as core architects of America and impact as the economic engine of America.
John Harmon, the founder of the African American Chamber, said the honorees are a group of distinction.
“Each year during Black History Month, the AACCNJ recognizes a distinguished group of African Americans that have attained a significant level of accomplishment in business, politics, education, community service, sports and entertainment,” he said. “This distinguished group of honorees represents the best in class in their respective fields and underscores the level of excellence within the Black demographic in the United States. We look forward to your attendance and support.”
Johnson said she was appreciative of the honor.
“The work of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey is vital, impactful and transformative,” she said. “It is a privilege to partner with AACCNJ to support initiatives aimed at improving the economic condition of African Americans in the state, and an honor to be recognized alongside this year’s circle of achievement awardees.”
Ross-Dulan, the founder and managing partner of the Ross Dulan Group, also will be given a Community Service Award.
Harmon said Ross-Dulan’s work at Wells Fargo was impactful.
“Brenda Ross-Dulan’s leadership at Wells Fargo during the largest merger in the banking industry was critical, serving as president of the consumer banking group for half of the state of New Jersey, and overseeing more than $12 billion in deposits, $5 billion in loans while managing 1,700 employees,” he said. “Brenda’s impact on the AACCNJ, as the CEO of the Ross Dulan Group and the community at large has been transformational.”
Small, the mayor of Atlantic City, will be given the Politics Award.
“Mayor Marty Small has made significant advances for the people of Atlantic City, New Jersey,” Harmon said. “We at the AACCNJ value his leadership and our partnership to strengthen underperforming sectors of New Jersey’s economy.”
Bentley will receive the Diversity in Sports Award.
“We applaud Kenneth Bentley and the mission of the Advocates Professional Golf Tour to bring greater diversity to the sport of golf, through hosting and operating professional golf tournaments, player development programs, mentoring programs and by introducing the game to inner-city youth,” Harmon said. “The APGA awards up to $250,000 annually in tournament prize money.”
Dunn will receive the Gus Heningburg Award — named for a famous New Jersey civil rights and community activist.
“Harry Dunn’s heroic deeds during the Jan. 6 insurrection and assault on the Capitol makes him a national hero,” Harmon said. “It is befitting that we bestow the Gus Heningburg Award to Officer Dunn.
“Gus was a civil rights and community activist. This is a man who ran onto the tarmac at Newark airport to advance opportunities for Black people.”
Dunn said hearing about the honor was overwhelming.
“What an absolute honor this recognition is,” he said. “I am overwhelmed with gratitude, and I am extremely humbled that this body finds me worthy of this award.
“I pray that I can continue to be an inspiration to somebody, while just standing tall in my convictions and continuing to fight for what I believe is right.”
The gala provides the platform, on behalf of the members of the AACCNJ and the over 88,000 Black-owned businesses in the state of New Jersey, to continue to increase the visibility of members and their businesses.