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An Annual Celebration of Black History in New Jersey
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Keynotes and Educational Excellence

The Heath Center has been graced with the presence of a host of dynamic keynote speakers at its annual Black History Celebrations and opening ceremonies. Here are some of the speakers who have spread the word that Black History is certainly alive and well.

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By Popular Demand...
Dr. Lenworth Gunther

*Of Jamaican roots, Dr. Lenworth Gunther grew up in NYC's tough, dynamic community of Harlem.

*From NYC's public schools, he went on to become a Wooddrow Wilson and Ford Foundation Fellow and received four (4) degrees from Comumbia University, including a Ph.D. in American History with specialties in African American, West African and Russian studies.

*In 1969, two years after teaching his first high school students, he helped prepare and teach Columbia University's first African American History course.

*Dr. Gunther has held professorships at a number of institutions of higher learning, including Drew University, Fairleigh Dickenson University, Rutgers University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Ramapo College and Essex County College where he holds a position as a professor of history.

*In 1986, Dr. Gunther created Edmedia Associates, an educational and motivational consulting corporation, which specializes in ethnic studies, human relations and diversity training.

*Dr. Gunther has served as Black History consultant for the Millenium issue of "Life" magazine and has lectured on behalf of the U.S. Defense Department in Germany during December of 1997.

*In late March, he appearer on "The History Channel" as a Documentary Commentator on America during the 1930's - 1940's.

*He has honored countless audiences with his wit, and his warmth and extensive knowledge of history.

*He has appeared as Keynote Speaker for the Heath Center Black History Committee at The Heath Center of Middletown, NJ.

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Paul Robeson Jr.

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Reverend Kathleen Smallwood-Johnson, Esq.

......If you don't believe in something, you'll fall for anything," exclaimed Kathleen Smallwood Johnson to an audience of Monmouth County officials, residents, supporters, families and friends and guests at Middletown, New Jersey's Heath Center, the site of the annual Heath Center Black History Committee's Opening Ceremonies on Saturday, October 21, 2001.

Following a Moment of Silence in tribute to those ofellow Americans and Monmouth County citizens who lost their lives on September 11, 2001; a traditional Invocation by The Very Reverend Ephraem of the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Saint Barbara; the Pledge of Allegiance led by African-American Pioneer and Achiever Pauline Drake and Opening Remarks, Reverend Kathleen Smallwood-Johnson, Esq. delivered her Keynote Address at the annual event.

With its theme of "What It Means to Be an American of African Descent", Rev. Smallwood-Johnson, a Public Defender, Attorney, Administrator, Baptist Minister and former President of Trentons NAACP, proceeded to dazzle listeners with reflections recounting the black experience -in and out of America.

Her explosive display of verbal pyrotechnics, seasoned heavily with humor, created an oratorical edifice not heard in these parts since the Heath Center Black History Opening Ceremonies in 1999.

Rev. Johnson began by quoting from the song, America The Beautiful. Going beyond what she termed the saline consciousness lurking beneath the words from sea to shining sea, She noted that certain archaeological evidence increasingly points to African contact with pre-Columbian culture in America. Some scholars dispute that but few deny Rev. Johnsons additional point that pre-Christian cultures in Ghana, Mali and Songhay matched anything in Europe or anywhere else during their tenures.

Having recently returned from Africa, Rev. Johnson challenged her audience, saying Im not telling anyone to go back (to Africa), but stressed taking justifiable pride in watering ancestral trees.

In America were supposed to have big dreams, Rev. Johnson explained. But the only dream were talking about is Martin Luther Kings. We have failed to create a (new) dream. Such failure means we are only existing and if youre only existing you might as well be dead.

Johnson ended her speech by quoting passages from the Black National Anthem, "Lift Every Voice and Sing", notably asking the God of weary years and silent tears to help keep us on the path to salvation.

In the aftermath, the Master of Ceremonies of the event was visibly moved, saying, "I don't know about you, but at this Place at This Time, I'm indeed proud to be an American of African Descent!" His lament was confirmed by a now-wowed audience.

About Our 2003 Heath Center Keynote Speaker Offering a Focus on The Underground Railroad:
 

The Honorable

Regena L. Thomas

New Jersey Secretary of State

 

The State of New Jersey's Secretary of State
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The Honorable Regena L. Thomas

Regena L. Thomas was sworn in as New Jersey's 31st secretary of state by Governor James E. McGreevey on January 15, 2002.

Charged with the promotion and preservation of the arts, history, and culture of the Garden State, Secretary Thomas brings a community conscious approach to public policy that she honed during her distinguished 20-year career as a public servant.

She is recognized throughout the country as a strategist and organizer, and pledged to utilize her extensive experience to help build the broad-based coalitions, public-private partnerships and innovative programs necessary to strengthen and advance the state's cultural resources and empower the working families of New Jersey. One of only a handful of African-Americans to hold the post nationally, she brings a unique blend of grassroots activism, political acumen, steadfast determination, and personal integrity to the Department of State and its mission to enrich the quality of life throughout New Jersey through the arts, history, and culture of the state.

In her official capacity, Secretary Thomas is responsible for one of the premier departments of state government.

She oversees the Department of State's operating agencies consisting of:

*Archives and Records Management;

*The Center for Youth Policy and Programs;

*The New Jersey Historical Commission;

*The New Jersey Historic Trust;

*The New Jersey State Council on the Arts;

*The New Jersey State Museum;

*The New Jersey Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission;

*The New Jersey Commission on American Indian Affairs;

*The Governor's Office of Volunteerism; and

*The Trenton War Memorial.

Prior to her state service Secretary Thomas served as a partner at IEM Message Management, Inc., a voter contact firm specializing in grassroots organization and voter education.

She served as a consultant to the Democratic Governor's Association and is the former Director of Base Vote Operations for the Democratic National Committee.

In that capacity, Thomas served as the principal liaison to non-governmental organizations and key Democratic constituencies, directing a twenty-person staff and multi-million dollar budget.

In addition to her national service, Secretary Thomas has served in various roles in state and municipal government.

She served for six years in the government of the District of Columbia as Deputy and as Director of Constituent Services respectively.

Her municipal service also extends to her Kentucky roots.

From 1980-1985, Thomas served as one of the first African-American Legislative Analysts on the Legislative Research Commission for the Kentucky State Legislature, mediating community concerns and managing state legislative priorities.

No stranger to New Jersey politics, Secretary Thomas has served in three election cycles in New Jersey:

*Corzine for Senate in 2000,

*McGreevey for Governor, 1997, and

*Torricelli for Senate in 1996.

For 12 years, she worked for the National Rainbow Coalition and its founder, Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, during his historic bids for the presidency in 1984 and 1988.

A native of Clinton, Kentucky, Secretary Thomas holds a B.A. in University Studies from Morehead State University.

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Mr. Giles R. Wright
2004 Closing Reception Keynote Speaker

CLICK HERE to Contact The Heath Center Black History Commitee