InsiderNJ’s 2021 African American Power List in Honor of Black History Month

NJ Legislative Black Caucus Chair Senator Ronald L. Rice joined with fellow legislators from the NJ Legislative Black and Latino Caucuses and prominent state civil rights organizers and faith leaders in a unified call to action for passage of legislation to end social injustice in the state, specifically decriminalizing marijuana, expunging marijuana convictions, and reforming the juvenile justice system.


  1. Cory Booker

New Jersey’s junior senator handily won reelection last year after failing to capture the national imagination with his presidential bid.

  1. Fabiana Pierre-Louis

Became the first African American woman in the state of New Jersey to become an associate justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court.

3. LeRoy Jones

Chair of the Essex County Democratic Committee, Jones will succeed Currie as chair of the Democratic Party in June of 2021 on the strength of the late 2019 deal he secured with the sitting chairman.

Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver

4. Sheila Oliver

The Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey (a former speaker of the General Assembly) fills in for Murphy when he’s out of state and serves as commissioner of the state Department of Community Affairs. Respected.

Mayor Ras Baraka

5. Ras Baraka

The Mayor of Newark proved his leadership chops through the COVID-19 crisis. Close to the Governor. Son of the late poet Amiri Baraka, one of the last truly literate people in the state, let alone politics.


6. Donald Payne, Jr.

The bow tied Congressman from the 10th District hails from one of New Jersey’s most distinguished African-American political families, son of New Jersey’s first African American Congressman, the late U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, Sr.

Watson Coleman

7. Bonnie Watson Coleman

The 12th District Congresswoman made history in 2015 when she assumed the oath of office as New Jersey’s first African American Congresswoman. A former Democratic State Party chair with a strong and independent progressive record, Watson Coleman keeps her own counsel and makes her own political moves. A survivor and a fighter.

Senator Ronald L. Rice (D-28).

8. Ronald L. Rice

The man no one pushes around, a Marine Corps veteran of Vietnam and veteran member of the New Jersey state Senate, who survived numerous establishment attempts to eject him from power. Chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, Rice assumed the lead role statewide to decriminalize marijuana.


  1. John Currie

The Democratic State Party Chairman remains one of Governor Phil Murphy’s closest allies and the grand old man of North Jersey Democratic Party politics.

  1. Nia Gill

The Montclair-based state senator from the 34th District stands atop the New Jersey State Senate as the governing body’s most fearsome inquisitor.


  1. Troy Singleton

Schooled in the governing arts by former Speaker Joe Roberts, the 7th District state Senator from Willingboro moved quickly up the ranks of the New Jersey Legislature to win a state senate seat in 2017. He’s the point man in the legislature to ensure safe and clean drinking water for New Jersey.


  1. Sandy Cunningham

The Jersey City-based state Senator from the 31st District has for years managed to stay on her feet in the internecine nightmare otherwise known as Hudson County politics.

LD15 Senator Shirley Turner of Lawrenceville

  1. Shirley Turner

The Lawrence-based state Senator from the 15th Legislative District remains one of the senate’s most dignified members, an expert on education issues, an independent Democratic voice, and a champion of government accountability. She took the lead role this year on legislation to require civics education in public middle schools.

Assemblyman Wimberly

  1. Benjie Wimberly

The Assemblyman from the 35th District heads the Paterson Recreation Department, a perch he has used to build considerable power and influence as a coach for future leaders. A future Congressman, state senator, or Governor.

  1. Herb Conaway

The most educated member of the legislature is both a medical doctor and an attorney. The 7th District representative chairs the Assembly Health Committee.

First Lady Tammy Murphy and Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-37) campaign at the Shop Rite.

  1. Gordon Johnson

The Englewood-based Assemblyman from the 37th District has the jump on party support in Bergen County for the state senate seat being vacated by state Senator Loretta Weinberg (D-37).


  1. Tony Vauss

The no-nonsense Mayor of Irvington won a second term in office in 2018 with a walkover election. In 2020, his Team Irvington Strong allies won ward elections to help him maintain a firm grip on local power.

Murphy and Allen-McMillan

  1. Angelica Allen-McMillan

New Jersey’s Acting Commissioner of the Department of Education.

  1. Michael Hill

The longtime reporter and news anchor at NJTV –  now the new Host of Morning Edition at WNYC – commands respect as one of the best newsmen in New Jersey. Aggressive but also elegant. Deep Newark family roots.

Linden Mayor Derek Armstead sent a letter to U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito asking for an investigation into business dealings between Parktowne Associates, which is owned by Union County Manager Ed Oatman and Union County Democratic Committee Executive Director Nick Fixmer, and various campaigns and publicly funded interests.

  1. Derek Armstead

The Mayor of Linden easily won reelection in 2018 despite a strong challenge by the allies of State Senator (and Union County Democratic Committee Chairman) Nick Scutari. He continues to harry Scutari in a local political fight that long ago rose above the pushing and shoving stage.

Marty Small

  1. Marty Small

Appointed Mayor last year on the heels of a meltdown by Frank Gilliam, Atlantic City Mayor Small this year seeks a full, four-year term. He took over in October of 2019 and won three elections in 2020 (including a defeat of the referendum), winning 65% of the vote in the primary and 70% in the general.

  1. Larry Hamm

The executive director of the People’s Organization for Progress (POP) commands instantaneous respect in the progressive community of New Jersey as one of the longest-standing frontline advocates for working people and communities of color.

  1. Anthony Cureton

Elected in 2018 to supplant his disgraced predecessor, former NAACP Chapter head Cureton serves as the Sheriff of Bergen County.

  1. Kenneth Clayton

The pastor of St. Luke Baptist Church in Paterson stands at ground zero of one of New Jersey’s most challenged urban neighborhoods.

IN THE CROWD FOR PELOSI'S SPEECH: Senator Nellie Pou and Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter of LD35.

  1. Shavonda Sumter

The politically-grounded Assemblywoman from the 35th District commands a power base in Paterson. Close to Chairman Currie.

  1. Bill Payne, Sr.

Deputy Chief of Staff to Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo the former Assemblyman is the patriarch of the Newark-based Payne family. Brother of the late U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, and father of actor Eric Payne, he is the author (along with his nephew former Assemblyman Craig Stanley) of legislation that created the New Jersey Amistad Commission.

  1. Mila Jasey

Assemblywoman representing the 27th District. Close to slate mate former Governor Dick Codey.

  1. Angela McKnight

Represents Jersey City and Bayonne as the 31st District Assemblywoman. Outspoken and tough.

  1. Verlina Reynolds Jackson

Assemblywoman from Trenton representing the 15th Legislative District.

  1. Linda Carter: Energetic Plainfield-based Assemblywoman representing the 22nd Legislative District.britnee Timberlake
  2. Britnee Timberlake

34th District Assemblywoman from East Orange; former President of the Essex County Freeholder Board, and possibly a future Essex County Executive.

  1. Shanique Speight

Newark Central Ward-based Assemblywoman from the 29th District. A people-centered advocate.

  1. Ted Green

The Mayor of East Orange cut his professional teeth as a karate instructor. Close to Essex County Democratic Chairman Jones.

34. Adrian Mapp

The Mayor of Plainfield easily won reelection in 2017 and commands a strong power base in Union County. He faces the voters again this year.

35. Charles Boyer

Pastor of Bethel AME Church in Woodbury, and the founder of Salvation and Social Justice, a nonpartisan Black faith-rooted organization.

  1. Richard T. Smith

The Trenton native serves as the President of the New Jersey NAACP.

37. Antwan McClellan

The former Ocean City Councilman now serves as the legislature’s only sitting African-American Republican Assemblyman in the state of New Jersey.

38. Mo Butler

Partner at Mercury. Point man for Senator Booker.

39. John Harmon

CEO and President of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey.

40. Mildred Scott

The Sheriff of Middlesex County.

41. Sean Spiller

Vice President of the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) and Mayor of Montclair Twp.

  1. Jamel Holley

The 20th District Assemblyman has deep Trenton institutional roots and is a former Roselle Mayor. Running for state senate in LD20.

  1. Michellene Davis

A veteran of RWJ-Barnabas Health since 2009, Davis is the first person of color to serve as executive vice president in the health system’s history.

  1. Amir Khan

An on-the-ground activist in the City of Camden and future candidate for Mayor.

  1. John E. Wallace

Former Supreme Court Justice and chair of the Joint Legislative Commission on Ethical Standards.


  1. Chris James

The former executive director of the Democratic state Committee and 1st Ward East Orange Councilman in 2018 became the local governing body’s president.

Somerset County Democratic Freeholder Shanel Robinson

  1. Shanel Robinson

The former Franklin Twp. Councilwoman made history in 2018 as the leader of the Democratic Board of Commissioners ticket that broke the GOP chokehold on county government. Chair of the Somerset County Commissioners Board.

  1. James Gee

Watson Coleman’s Chief of Staff is a veteran of statewide politics.

  1. Dana Redd

The former Mayor of Camden is considered a stateswoman in South Jersey political circles.

  1. Dwayne Warren

Mayor of Orange.

  1. TJ Best

The only African-American on the Passaic County Board of Commissioners easily won reelection last year.

52. Tai Cooper

A former Deputy Chief Policy Advisor in the Murphy Administration, Cooper serves on the senior leadership team of the state Economic Development Authority (EDA). Vital in Baraka World as the communications point person in one of the most brutal contests of all time.

53. Sarah Jones

The Director of Government Affairs at Blue Cross/Blue Shield emerged from Payne world to become one of the most dynamic veteran minds in New Jersey politics.

54. William Spearman

Fifth District Democratic Assemblyman.

55. Jonathan L. Young, Sr.

Camden County Commissioner.

56. L. Grace Spencer

Superior Court Judge and former Assemblywoman from the 29th District.

57. Stephenine Dixon

Top Democratic Party Operative based in Atlantic County.

58. Jeannine Frisby LaRue

Trenton-based power player with Kaufman-Zita.

59. Adam Taliaferro

The Democratic Assemblyman represents the 3rd District.

60. Jiles Ship

President of the North Jersey Chapter of NOBLE.

61. Rebecca Williams

Union County Commissioner; former Council President in Plainfield and a New Democratic Party leader.

62. Tahesha Way

Secretary of State for the State of New Jersey and former Passaic County Freeholder.

63. Junius Williams

Legendary Rutgers University Professor and author.

64. Albert B. Kelly

CEO and Founder of Gateway Community Action Partnership.

65. Craig Callaway

Veteran operative on the ground in Atlantic City. Instrumental in getting U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew reelected in 2020.

66. David Brown

Monmouth County Democratic Chairman.

67. Sam Frisby

Mercer County Freeholder.

68. Levon Putney

Distinguished WCBS 880 Overnight anchor.

69. Anthony Salters

Veteran, politically savvy chair of the Hillside Democratic Committee.

70. Rick Thigpen

Senior Vice President of Government Affairs for PSE&G; son of the late Essex County Democratic Chairman Phil Thigpen.

71. Rahaman Muhammed

Deputy Mayor for the City of Newark.

72. Alturrick Kenney

Surrogate for Essex County; close to Newark Mayor Baraka.

73. Durwood Pinkett

Veteran Atlantic County-based Democratic Party operative.

74. Charles Williams

Veteran Essex County Democratic operative; close to LG Sheila Oliver.

75. Sharpe James and John Sharpe James

The inter-generational Newark-tandem consists of the South Ward Councilman and former Newark Mayor.

76. Ernest Coursey

Veteran Atlantic County Commissioner

77. Ruby Cotton

Paterson 4th Ward Councilwoman. Briefly served as Mayor of Silk City.

From left on the week before the elecction: Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker, Senator Ronald L. Rice, and Assemblyman Ralph Caputo.

78. Cleopatra Tucker

The 28th District Assemblywoman from Newark.

79. Lilisa Mimms

At-Large Councilwoman from Paterson.

Honored by the Democratic State Committee with a trailblazer award, Newark Council President Mildred Crump (center) celebrated with, from left: T. Missy Balmir, Sherryl Gordon Hall, Truscha Quatrone, and Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (D-15).

80. Mildred Crump

Longtime legendary At-Large Councilwoman representing Newark.

81. Tency Eason

The veteran Orange Councilwoman represents the North Ward.

82. Wayne Richardson

Respected Essex County Commission President.

83. Ken Armwood

Dynamic Middlesex County Commissioner from Piscataway; former football star turned politico.

84. Eddie Osborne

At-Large Newark City Councilman; labor leader with LIUNA.

85. Jerell Blakeley

Trenton At-Large Councilman.

86. Denise Ridley

Jersey City Councilwoman.

Union County Freehlolder Angela Garretson spearheaded the call to abolish the term 'freeholder'.

87. Angela Garretson

Union County Commissioner and former Mayor of Hillside. Spearheaded the 2020 movement to abolish the term “freeholder.”

  1. Donna Pearson

Cumberland County Commissioner. Won against the odds in 2020.

89. Lamonica McIver

Central Ward Councilwoman representing the City of Newark. Possible future Congresswoman.

90. Andrea Staten

Union County Commissioner.

91. Patricia Perkins-Auguste

Veteran Elizabeth Councilwoman.

92. Rufus Johnson

Essex County Commissioner; close to Senator Rice.

93. Rhashonna Cosby

Linden Councilwoman and 2018 candidate for Mayor. Author of Plantation Politics.

  1. Tormel Pittman

Social Justice/Black Lives Matter activist based in New Brunswick.

95. Dahlia Vertreese

Labor leader with the Operating Engineers and the Mayor of Hillside.

96. Gerry Gibbs

Principal at Capital Impact Group.

97. Mike Jackson

Paterson Councilman representing the 1st Ward.

98. Keiona Miller

North Plainfield Councilwoman. Organizes the annual North Plainfield Community Black History Month Celebration.

99. Frank Minor

The veteran Mayor of Logan Twp.

100. Gerry and Missy Balmir

One-two-punch Democratic Party operatives.



Vanessa Falco

Fatima Heyward

Charlene Walker

Kimberly Francois

Crystal Pruitt

Jamillah Beasley

Elton Armady

David Sims

Fruqan Mouzon

Buster Soaries

Jay Redd

Kenyatta Stewart

Derel Stroud

Danielle Imhof

Brandon Givens

Hiver Ambroise

Lisa Ormon

Davon McCurry

Donald Shaw

Renee Burgess

Orlander Vick

Vern Cox

Archange Antoine

Jeff Booker

Tara Dowdell

Jane Warren Williams

Braxton Plummer

Joe Carter

Michael Johnson

Mohamed Jalloh

Tia Jalloh

Steffi Bartley

Robert Artis

Al-tariq Ibn Shabazz

Rev. Lanel D. Guyton

Diane Tolliver

Jamila Odom Garnett

Alexander Bland

Andrew Bobbitt

Barry Goode

Ashley Davis

Sherwood Goodenough

Charles McRae

Gregory Good

Tamara Harris

Tanzie Youngblood

Joylette Mills-Ramson

Thomas Little

Della Crews

Marie Guervil

Demetrius Terry

Doug Palmer

William Gallman, Jr.

Steve Hockaday

Eric Jackson

Middy Baraka

Monique Baptiste

Reginald Bledsoe

Basil Parker

Marques-Akil Lewis

Brandon McKoy

Tracey L. Brown

Dianna Houenou

Mike Bland

Eric “Citizen” Payne

Kyle Darby

Randal Pinkett

Jason Redd

Mike Wallace

Eddie Cotton

Emanuel Capers

Andre Speight

Petra Gaskins

Kerry Coley

Naima Ricks

Ernie Rucker

Corey Teague

Christopher Jackson

George Dredden

Jamie Summers-Johnson

Will Cunningham

John Francis

Renee Baskerville

Jeff Dublin

Sakeema James

Ayinde Martin

Khahil Chaneyfield Nass

Adrienne Wooten

Garry Williams

Shante Palmer

Eldridge Hawkins, Jr.

John Campbell

Chris Irving

Harold Johnson, Jr.

Zelli Imani

Allen Stephen Potts

Sherwood Goodenough

Shavar Jeffries

Jonathan Hodges

Lester Taylor

Jeff Jones

Al Spivey

Ingrid Hill

Shaheed Morris

Sharon Robinson-Briggs

Jason Solowsky

Jon Evans

Elnardo Webster

John Amos

Lisa Jackson

Denise Coleman

Safanya Searcy

Jethro James

Selika Josiah Talbott

Ronald C. Rice

Vernon Richardson

Ronald Slaughter

Ken Gibson

Lucy Edmund

Kason Little

Susan Hairston

Kim Dehaarte

Marilyn Davis

Samantha Gordon

Reverend John Givens

Lizbeth Davies

Lynda Gallashaw

Jim Johnson

Jason Grove

Keith Jones

Ken Morris, Jr.

Kathy McBride

Tennille McCoy

Lynn Haynes

Regena Thomas

Ashton Burrell

Kason Little

Jude Ezeh

Justis Brown

Regina Appolon

Michael Johnson

Robin Vaughn

Romaine Graham

Tyshammie Cooper

Deborah Davis

Mason Robinson

Eddie Glaude

Edina Brown

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2 responses to “InsiderNJ’s 2021 African American Power List in Honor of Black History Month”

  1. I so sincerely appreciate the acknowledment and notority for my social and political body of work that has allowed me to be listed with such prestigious and self-sacrificing individuals. New Jersey has a Black African American population of more than 1 million to choose from; I am honored that you chose me.

    Let it be known that “The Insider” has earned its bones of respect in the State of N.J. and continues to rise to the occasion in presenting worldly issues.
    Thank your for your strong support and focus on Black issues that matter.
    Mrs. Lynda Gallashaw,
    Public Advocate

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