Parties? There appear to be hundreds of them this week at the annual League of Municipalities conference, if you count all those listed on the various sheets compiling the places to be over the three-day event.
All have plenty of food and atmosphere. And, mostly, open bars — which enhances the atmosphere.
But, as the business and political leaders went from one location to another Tuesday, the opening day of the event, one thing became obvious: Some parties had a greater purpose than just a good time.
Start with the New Jersey Pride Chamber of Commerce’s event, which is becoming a must-attend kickoff effort in just its second year. It included a talk from FBI Special Agent Vernon Addison about hate crimes (and hate incidents; there is a difference in New Jersey).
This wasn’t an LGBTQ-themed event. In fact, many were stunned to see that hate crimes against Blacks in the state far exceed the number against the LGBTQ community — of course, these facts are presented with the idea that so many hate incidents/crimes go unreported.
Reporting everything — to the local police, to the FBI — was one of many interesting focuses of Addison’s presentation. Doing so helps law enforcement track trends, or put together all the pieces of a puzzle, Addison said.
The FBI, often in tandem with someone from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for New Jersey, is making an effort to educate citizens on the impact hate crimes and instances have on the state.
The event was used to inform — and it did.
John Harmon and the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey also used its event to inform — as Harmon laid out the plans for the coming year.
ROI-NJ attended more than a half-dozen parties on the opening day; here are some unofficial honors:
- Best location: Noyes Arts Garage of Stockton University. The site of the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey gala is the most unique.
- Best location (runner-up): The Balcony Bar at Ocean Casino Resort. The view at the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey event is unlike any other.
- Best food: African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey. Two carving stations, plenty of pasta as well as shrimp and shellfish. Weddings aren’t always this nice.
- Best drink: Hispanic Chamber. The wide variety of specialty alcohol was great — the wide variety of specialty coffee drinks even better.
It just wasn’t all smiles and sunshine.
Harmon made it clear to his partygoers that the African American community will be demanding something in return for what it is an expected — and often unappreciated — vote for Democratic candidates.
“2024, with all due respect, is going to be a little different,” he said. “2024 is time for reciprocity, accountability, inequity. That’s the bottom line.”
The crowd cheered.
“For some time now, we’ve helped a number of people get what they want, achieve their potential goals,” he said. “We’ve helped corporations realize their profits, through our consumer spend and our ancestral labor. Takes some time to connect the dots on that.
“Wealth came from a lot of sacrifice from the Black demographic in the United States. People want to gloss over it. People want to rewrite history — but it’s time for us to get ours. And I mean that.”
This was a party and a political rally. And it wasn’t the only one.
A similar theme emerged from the always-festive Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey event. More than a dozen politicians came to celebrate, including mayors Ras Baraka, Andre Sayegh and Albio Sires, not to mention legislators Teresa Ruiz and Nellie Pou.
And, while Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli paid a visit — and he’s a regular at Hispanic Chamber events — none of the potential Democratic gubernatorial candidates came by.
Chamber CEO Carlos Medina could only shake his head.
“The Hispanic GDP in New Jersey is over $100 billion a year,” he said. “Come to our party and ride the train to success as we look to collaborate and partner to drive the New Jersey economy.
“Miss it at your peril.”