HACKENSACK, NJ -- Three residents of Hackensack were recognized with proclamations in honor of Black History Month at Monday night’s council meeting. (The ceremony was postponed due to a February storm).
“I want to congratulate the honorees,” Hackensack Mayor John Labrosse said. “They’re three great young gentlemen, representing the black community and representing the city of Hackensack. They do a great job. Kudus to them."
Omar Bailey, who moved to Hackensack in fourth grade, went on to become one of the Top 20 African American Scholars in his 2013 graduating class at Hackensack High School. While attending the University of Albany on an academic scholarship, Bailey entered and won a business plan competition for a recovery drink that he is currently working to introduce into the marketplace. While at Albany, he was among a small group of sophomores selected to work for Loop Capital on Wall Street in the summer of 2015. In 2017, Bailey graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Albany earning a degree in Business Administration with a focus on Entrepreneurship. Today, Omar holds the position of Manager at Paula’s Soul Food Cafe located in Hackensack where he is helping to build his family’s business.
“I just want to thank the city of Hackensack for the honor, as it means a great deal to me to be recognized by the city I grew up in,” Bailey said. “It’s also humbling to be honored for Black History Month as well. Over the years, I’ve had teachers, guidance counselors, coaches and peers that have been a crucial element to the person that I am today. I’ve had family has continued to support me and has given me the opportunity to be a part of something special. With that, I will continue to be strive to be an example for the black community as well as for the city of Hackensack."
Lifelong Hackensack resident Navarro W. Gray is a product of the Hackensack Public School system and received his Bachelor of Science degree from Hampton University in Virginia where he graduated cum laude with honors. He received his Uris Doctorate degree with a concentration intellectual property from Hofstra University School of Law and started his own practice The Gray Law Firm. Gray made history by becoming the first African American Municipal Public Defender for the City of Hackensack and, in 2018, became the first African American Public Defender for Bergen County Central Municipal Court. He maintains his private law practice across the street from City Hall in The Gray Building, which was named after him in 2017.
Gray thanked the city, the mayor, and council and spoke of living outside of the area before returning to his hometown around six years ago.
“I notice a great change since I’ve been back,” he said. “I’m in all the areas and I see them being developed every day. I think you guys are doing a wonderful job."
John Earl Harrison, Jr., also a lifelong Hackensack resident, attended Nellie K. Parker Elementary School and graduated Hackensack High School in 2010 where he achieved success as a track & field high-jumper and wrestler. He is currently a drummer at Trinity Baptist Church and also plays at Mount Olive and New Hope Church and enjoys playing basketball at North Eastern Sports. A soon-to-be father, Harrison currently serves as a Manager at Five Guys in Lodi.
Harrison praised God, thanked his family and longtime friends, as well as Deputy Mayor Sims, whom he has known since he was a child.
“It’s nice to see the three gentlemen become so successful and hardworking and they deserve that recognition,” Councilwoman Stephanie Von Rudenborg said. “Two of them came from Parker School, which is where my children go, so I hope they follow in their footsteps and keep working hard. Obviously they’re doing something right at Parker."