Pictured are (from left to right, front row) Freeholder Tyshammie L. Cooper of District 3, Honorees: The Honorable Quilla E. Talmadge, Dr. Lillian Hipps, Vivian Cox Fraser, Melissa Walker, Freeholder At-Large Patricia Sebold, and Freeholder At-Large President Brendan W. Gill. (From left to right, back row) Freeholder Robert Mercado of District 1, Freeholder Carlos M. Pomares of District 5, Honoree: Robert L. Walker, Freeholder Leonard M. Luciano of District 4, Freeholder At-Large Rufus I. Johnson, Essex County Democratic Party Chairman Leroy J. Jones, Jr., and Freeholder Vice President Wayne L. Richardson of District 2. PHOTO BY GLEN FRIESON

(Newark, NJ) – The Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders held its 2020 African-American Heritage Month Celebration on Wednesday, February 26, 2020, at the Hall of Records in Newark, New Jersey. The ceremony commemorated the heritage, culture, resilience, and spirit of the African-American community.

Freeholder President Brendan W. Gill began the program with opening remarks and acknowledged African-American contributions, both past and present, from the residents of Essex County.

This year, the Board recognized six outstanding Essex County residents for their leadership: The Honorable Quilla E. Talmadge of East Orange, Dr. Lillian Hipps of Newark, Vivian Cox Fraser, Jacqueline L. Jones of East Orange, Melissa Walker of Montclair, and Robert L. Walker of West Orange.

The Honorable Quilla E. Talmadge recently retired from the East Orange City Council on December 31, 2019, after 30 years of service to the citizens of East Orange. She was initially elected in 1989, and again in 1999. She was elected by her peers as Council President in 1992, and again in 2001. After being elected Council President in 2006, she served eight consecutive years in that role. She began her political career as president of her Third Ward Neighborhood Association and organized block associations throughout the Third Ward. She is a member of the Third Ward Committee, former president of the Washington School PTA for six years, member of the NAACP, NANBPW, and the National Council of Negro Women. She is also a member of the Clinton Memorial AME Zion Church where she serves on the Trustee Board. She is very family oriented and enjoys spending time with her three grandchildren, her sisters, and her nieces and nephews.

Dr. Lillian Hipps has served her community for over 40 years in various roles. She was employed by the Wood Bridge State School for the Mentally Challenged from 1979 to 1988. During that time, she was elected by the employees to serve as their Union Representative Shop Stewardess for the CWA (Communications Workers of America) Teachers/Nurses Union, and was instrumental in facilitating the acquisition of government funds to benefit the school. She has served as an advocate for people in public and subsidized housing, served on the Essex County Senior Advisory Board, and was honored as an Essex County Legend by County Executive Joe DiVincenzo.

At an early age, Dr. Hipps acknowledged a call on her life to study the ministry. She was ordained a Pastor, Teacher, and Prophetess. She started a Bible Study group in Branch Brook Park Manor, and through the years her class has grown to over 400 students. She performed numerous weddings and eulogies; and many people were healed and accepted Christ. She has had the opportunity to travel internationally with her ministry to locations such as Africa, Guyana, Puerto Rico and various areas throughout the United States.

Vivian Cox Fraser is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Urban League of Essex County. She has led its growth and transition from a social services agency to a comprehensive community development corporation. Under her leadership, the organization has established a Community Employment Center, a job-creating social enterprise, affordable housing development and strategic community organizing. These programs are key drivers for economic empowerment and social change throughout her community and the surrounding areas.

She was taught early on that education was critical to improving one’s future. Recognizing that quality education paves the pathway to economic opportunity, she ensures that education is integrated into every program and service area at The League. She is married and the mother of three daughters.

In 2003, Jacqueline L. Jones became a community activist and began a life in the world of politics. She was elected as the First Ward District Leader for the Municipal Democratic Committee and was voted Chairwoman of the First Ward in 2005. Since elected, she has worked for several candidates for Presidential, Congressional, State, County and Municipal office. She is currently employed with Essex County, and is the lead employee fundraising organizer for the Valerie Fund Children’s Walk, American Heart Association, and Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk. She believes in supporting those who are driven to do God’s work. She has received many awards and acknowledgements including: the SAVE OUR NATION Dream Maker Award, and the Coretta Scott-King Leadership Award. She is the loving wife of LeRoy J. Jones Jr., who currently serves as the Democratic Chairman for Essex County & East Orange Committee. She is the proud mother of six children and grandmother of six grandchildren.

Melissa Walker is an acclaimed jazz vocalist, recording artist, visionary leader and passionate advocate for education through the arts. She is the President & Founder of JAZZ HOUSE KIDS, a nationally-renowned arts education and performance organization that uses jazz as an effective teaching tool to help young people gain an “artistic edge”. She leads a dynamic team that puts instruments in the hands of students through programs in schools, at the JAZZ HOUSE in Montclair, and in other venues throughout the community. JazzTimes called JAZZ HOUSE KIDS, “one of the most successful and respected jazz education programs in the country”.  In 2010, she launched the first MONTCLAIR JAZZ FESTIVAL.  This annual, “no tickets required” summer festival has become one of the region’s largest music festivals attended by 10,000 people. Along with her husband, 7-time Grammy Award-winning bassist Christian McBride who serves as artistic chair and board member, JAZZ HOUSE KIDS offers tremendous value well beyond music education.

Robert Louis Walker has been employed with the Minor Rubber Company, Inc., located in Bloomfield, for 40 years. He currently serves as the Warehouse/Operations Manager. He developed his tireless work ethic from his parents while growing up in Washington D.C., and from his grandmother in South Carolina. Spending time during his formative years in both places, he learned that sharing was a trait that would help him as he grew into adulthood. His service and love of God and humanity is summed up in this quote from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; “Use me, God. Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself”.

He currently serves as Chairman of the Deacon Ministry of New Light Baptist Church of Bloomfield, President of the Shiloh Baptist Association Laymen’s Movement of NJ Inc., and he is a member of the Bloomfield Martin Luther King Day of Service Committee. He has been married to his wife Charlotte for 43 years and they have been blessed to raise three children, Sojournal, Robert, Jr., and Olivia.

Reverend Alfreddy Fletcher of Christian Love Baptist Church of Irvington delivered prayers during the occasion, and the audience was captivated by the musical talents of Valarie Adams.


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For Additional Information:
Kyalo Mulumba, Public Information Officer
Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders
973-621-4452 (phone) 973-621-5695 (fax)
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