WEST ORANGE, NJ — Essex County Surrogate Ted Stephens hosted his annual Champagne Brunch Honoring Essex County’s Fathers on Saturday, June 18, at Mayfair Farms in West Orange.
Stephens honored National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial; Assemblyman Tom Giblin; Perry Funeral Home in Newark Director Samuel Arnold; Dr. Omar Bey, a pulmonary specialist and author; East Orange Division of Senior Services and Recreation Supervisor Richard Clark; Realtor Tekeste Ghebremicael of West Orange; Investors Bank Vice President and Senior Market Manager Omari S. Frazier; Montclair Mayor Robert Jackson; and Irvington Township attorney Ramon Rivera.
“I’m just glad that this year’s event was the largest that we’ve had,” said Stephens on Saturday, June 18. “Everybody was so deserving, whether it was someone who is a key person in the state Assembly, like Tom Giblin, or a guy like Rick Clark, who is one of the managers over at the senior center in East Orange, and everybody in between.”
East Orange 5th Ward Councilwoman Alicia Holman was at Stephens’ event, cheering on all the honorees.
“This is surrogate Ted Stephens’ annual event for Father’s Day, where he honors great men who made contributions, not only to their communities, but to their families also,” said Holman on Saturday, June 18. “They’re great fathers, great-grandfathers some of them, and I think it’s an important event and I love to stand behind and support our black men. Behind every good man is a good woman. So I commend Ted Stephens for recognizing the men in our community and recognizing them for being a great father.”
Irvington Municipal Council President Charnette Frederic was also present at Stephens’ annual event and said it has become a staple on her social calendar.
“It was a pleasure supporting Essex County surrogate Ted Stephens as he honors fathers, particularly one of our own, Ramon Rivera, Irvington Township attorney,” said Frederic on Monday, June 20. “The mayor and I were there to show our appreciation and congratulate all the honorees. Fathers are very important to instill the right values in our lives, as Councilwoman Sandy Jones and the Friends of Irvington Park celebrated our fathers as well on Saturday.”
Frederic said, “I wish all the fathers a happy Father’s Day.”
Shirley Hendricks, the “Oprah of Orange” who also attended Stephens’ Father’s Day event, echoed those sentiments. “I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” said Hendricks on Saturday, June 18. “Ted is such a treasure that we have in our county. He gives recognition to those people in the community who are doing positive things and, as everybody knows, I’m all about giving credit where credit is due. We have enough events going on that are not positive, but we most certainly have enough that are, and the people that are movers and shakers rolling up their sleeves, as far as mentoring our young people and encouraging them and being stalwart examples of how to live and share and promote.”
Hendricks said it is imperative people share information and the fact Stephens feels the same way is a boon to county residents.
And Stephens said he feels the same about honoring fathers, mentors, role models and good men at his annual Father’s Day event.
“I want to echo the sentiment that was echoed here … everybody do what you can,” said Stephens on Saturday, June 18. “You never know what effort you make is going to make the greatest impact on a young person. We had a couple great examples of what young folks can be and we had some tremendous examples of fathers who are dedicated. So I just want to get Father’s Day to the point where it’s almost, not quite, but almost as big as Mother’s Day.”
Stephens’ annual event was notable this year because, in addition to the list of honorees, it featured a performance by the K’Lynn Jackman, the young singer and actress who played the role of Nala in “The Lion King” on Broadway.
“Rita, my girlfriend, actually kind of semi-discovered K’Lynn in this area and told her that there was an open call for the Nala character on Broadway and she went and claimed the prize,” Stephens said. “She came here today and performed for us, so everything came full circle. We were blessed to have her.”
Former Assembly speaker Sheila Oliver was also at the event. Earlier that day she had appeared at East Orange City Council Chairman and 3rd Ward Councilman Ted Green’s 10th annual Diamonds Amongst Men Fathers, Sons & Daughters Father’s Day Breakfast at Langston Hughes School held with his 3rd Ward Councilwoman Quilla Talmadge.
Oliver pointed out that this year Father’s Day fell on the same date as Juneteenth, which commemorates the emancipation of slaves in Texas and throughout the South.
“We are a flurry of activity the day before Father’s Day, as well as the day before Juneteenth,” said Oliver on Saturday, June 18. “But the men in our community are getting the recognition that they really, really deserve. We have heard from men across diverse occupations, but they all say the most important thing to them has been the role of father. It’s just been a great day and all the activities.”
Stephens said he had not previously considered that Father’s Day and Juneteenth would be observed on the same date this year, but it seemed appropriate, adding, “That’s very significant.”