EAST ORANGE, NJ - On the day of celebration for Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Urban Essex Chamber of Commerce hosted a networking gala at the Ambrose-Ward Mansion in East Orange to announce the formation of their new organization. According to members of their “Founder’s Circle” this events was strategically held on the slain civil rights leader’s birthday in recognition of his call to action through economic empowerment.

Notable members of the business community included former Irvington Mayor Wayne Smith, Joseph and Ralonda Johnson, owners of the recently opened Papa Johns in East Orange and Mayowa Obubanjo, Community Outreach Coordinator for City National Bank in Newark.

Featured among the many businesses in attendance was Chris Johnson owner of Grades4life. Grades4life is an online incentive program for students K-12 that rewards youths for educational and social accomplishments. The incentives to perform well in school are in the form of discounts and other offers to be redeemed at local retail partners for both students and their families. This collaboration a pens the door for businesses to demonstrate true community concern, while showcasing their products and services to thousands of local area families. It was announced this offer is an exclusive benefit to members of the newly formed Chamber.

Undoubtedly the highlight of the evening was a heartfelt toast to the memory and legacy of Dr. King by toastmaster, businessman and East Orange native son, Steve Cooper. His words of encouragement more than moved the crowd to pledge proactive community engagement in the days, months and years to come.