New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy with John E. Harmon, Sr., founder, president and chief executive officer of African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey (AACCNJ) on June 15, 2023 at Montclair State University. Credit: Governor Phil Murphy @GovMurphy/Twitter

TRENTON, N.J. – The African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey (AACCNJ) kicked off its sixteen-year anniversary with a successful inaugural Juneteenth event held on June 15, 2023, at Montclair State University (MSU), which has received accolades and has been lauded as a significant milestone.

The 2023 expo, themed “A Legacy of Excellence” was a dynamic, educational and collaborative event focusing on entrepreneurship, and the economic and cultural empowerment of underperforming communities.

The Juneteenth Expo provided a forum to highlight African American entrepreneurs from various business sectors, along with more than sixty corporations, Black-owned businesses, community partners and state agencies, displaying their products and services in a transformed exhibit space that incorporated the history of Black Wall Street and Black entrepreneurial excellence: past, present, and future.

“We are extremely pleased and humbled by the level of support we received at our Inaugural Juneteenth Black Business Expo,” said John E. Harmon, Sr., founder, president and chief executive officer of the AACCNJ. “This event was truly a presentation of Black Excellence. A special thank you to Governor Murphy, Ralph Weaver, CEO of East West Connection (EWC), and my executive assistant, Jacqueline Baptiste for their contributions in making this event something to remember for years to come.”

Stan Prater, chairman of the board of the AACCNJ also expressed his thanks to the key organizers and the Business Expo Planning Committee for executing on Harmon’s vision for the expo.

“I thought yesterday’s event was outstanding,” said Prater. “I talked with so many people; vendors, sponsors, guests, and the overriding theme was, ‘I can’t believe this is the first time the Chamber has done this, it was so well organized, I can’t wait until next year.’ All of you are to be commended for your hard work and dedication delivering on John’s vision. I cannot thank you enough.”

Weaver of EWC said it was an honor to partner with the AACCNJ on the Expo that provided an invaluable connection between Black-owned companies with the private and public sector.

“At one venue, Black entrepreneurs had the opportunity to showcase their talents with decision-makers who can have a positive impact on their respective businesses,” said Weaver. “The Expo was an extension of the Chamber’s ongoing commitment to assist and advocate for Black businesses and the Black community, which is needed today more than ever.”

Guest speakers at the expo included Governor Phil Murphy; Robert Smith, founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Vista Equity Partners (Austin); Rev. Dr. Steffie Bartley, Sr., northeast regional director of the National Action Network (NAN); Tara Dowdell, president of Tara Dowdell Group; Dr. Kimberly Holmes, assistant commissioner of NJ Department of Community Affairs; Aaron Samuels, founder and managing partner of Collide Capital and also co-founder of Blavity and Afro-Tech; Tim Sullivan, chief executive officer of the NJ Economic Development Authority (NJEDA); and Jonathan Koppell, president of Montclair State University.

On May 23rd, the AACCNJ announced it had sold out all the exhibit booths for the Juneteenth Black Business Expo.

‘Premiere Exhibitors’ included Hackensack Meridian Health and RWJ Barnabas Health. 

‘Elite Exhibitors’ included Davis EIS, East West Connection, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of NJ and Johnson & Johnson.

‘Innovator Exhibitors’ included Citizens Bank, Columbia Bank, FiServ, Jefferson Health, Lakeland Bank, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, PSE&G, Soter Technologies and United Airlines.

An estimated 500 participants, including attendees and exhibitors, took part in a full agenda featuring four hours of 15-minute matchmaking sessions with procurement leaders from major corporations; and workshop sessions, ranging from such topics as Targeting Municipalities for Business Opportunities; Media; Politics; Entrepreneurship & Small Businesses; Leveraging Technology to Transform your Business; and Access to Capital.

The Expo also featured a Business Corner, where business owners received photo headshots and feedback on their business profiles; and Johnson & Johnson provided a pitch contest within their exhibit booth.

The Expo was a one-stop resource for free community preventative health care for the attendees, with screenings for blood, cholesterol, glucose, stroke risk assessment and BMI, administered by Hackensack Meridian Health (HMH) Care professionals. HMH featured a health workshop and a full health clinic where guests received the latest information on underlying conditions impacting African Americans.

Attendees also experienced the newest innovations and technology by Black creators, featuring augmented reality (AR) technology through interactive and historical exhibits on Black Excellence, past, present, and future. 

The AACCNJ worked with Black Heart & the Greenwood Cultural Center, in Tulsa, OK, to bring the history of Black Wall Street to the expo and connect it to the entrepreneurs of today, along with the mission of the AACCNJ and the business owners of the future.

“Art and Couture Fashion Row” featured a select number of Black-owned businesses displaying the best in Black, art, jewelry, fashion and more, including Silver & Riley, Art’s World, Covered by God, Secur by Keeley B, and Afri-Printz.

The day concluded with a cocktail reception and live entertainment by Showtyme Brooks, and the winner of the Art Submission Contest was presented with a grand prize of $1,500.

“It has been a wonderful experience, over these past ten months, collaborating closely with Ralph Weaver, and the formidable group of professionals at EWC, and those at Black Heart Emoji,” said Baptiste, executive assistant to Harmon. “A personal thank you also to my team, for all their hard work to transform John’s vision into a reality.”

The AACCNJ advocates and promotes economic diversity fostering a climate of business growth through major initiatives centering on education and public policy. For more information, visit

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