We need to collaborate more

John E. Harmon, Sr., IOM | 5/30/2016, 8:08 p.m.
On April 16, 2016, I was privileged to be recognized as the “Ambassador of Economic Empowerment” by the Central New ...
John E. Harmon, Sr

On April 16, 2016, I was privileged to be recognized as the “Ambassador of Economic Empowerment” by the Central New Jersey Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc., serving Somerset, Middlesex, Hunterdon, and Mercer Counties, since 1984. The theme of the 2016 Brims and Bow Ties Fundraiser was “Building Ambassadors of Economic Growth and Financial Independence”.

The organization’s mission is to address issues affecting African American children and families by investing in programs and services that create a strong foundation for children to thrive long-term. At this annual fundraiser, I had the opportunity to network with approximately 300 individuals, many of which, I did not have a prior relationship. While engaging in conversation with those in attendance, we became familiar with our respective backgrounds, interests and vocations, and concluded on our commonalities. I departed from the event quite impressed with the organization, its attendees and the passion conveyed by the leadership when speaking about the mission.

This African American organization, headquartered in Washington, D.C., was formed in 1938, when Marion Stubbs Thomas, organized a group of 21 mothers in Philadelphia, PA, with the idea of establishing a social and cultural union for their children. From the beginning, this new club, Jack and Jill, focused on instilling values and leadership skills in their children. At present, there are more than 230 Jack and Jill chapters in 35 states across the United States, with more than 10,000 mother members and 40,000 parents and children.

The membership consists of children between 2 and 19 years of age; and the children are divided into the following age groups: 2-5, 6-9, 9-12, 12-14, and lastly by grade assignment: 9th - 12th grade. The mothers of these children are required to plan and host monthly activities for the children, who are the focus of the program. The children take part in cultural activities, fundraising, leadership training, legislative events and social events such as ski trips, pizza parties, cotillions, as well as college planning, theater trips and conferences, to name a few depending on their respective age grouping.

“The mothers that make up the Jack and Jill membership tend to be professional women who are doctors, lawyers, business executives, professors, and teachers or are housewives married to men who are doctors, lawyers or business executives,” according to the organization.

On my drive home, I pondered many thoughts about how the AACCNJ could collaborate with Jack & Jill of America, Inc., to execute programming that would lead to stronger African American communities and business enterprises in New Jersey. We currently work closely with the Garden State Bar Association which has the largest number of African American attorneys in the State of New Jersey. In addition we have strategic partnerships with The Association of Black Women Lawyers (ABWL), the first women’s bar association in New Jersey. Part of the mission of the ABWL is to provide a forum for discussion and disseminate legal information on matters of interest to black and minority attorneys in the legal profession and to encourage members of the association to participate in community service organizations. Other strategic partners include various sororities and fraternal organizations throughout New Jersey. Additionally, we have dialogue with and engage on issues affecting the African American community with the Urban League and the NAACP.