Russell Thompkins Jr., whose distinctive voice defined some of biggest R&B hits of the 1970s, and The New Stylistics, will headline the NAACP Metuchen Edison Piscataway Area Branch’s 2019 Freedom Fund Scholarship Banquet on Sunday, April 28. The event will take place 3:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at The Imperia in Somerset.

WBLS-FM radio personality Shaila will host the event, which also will feature The Singing Pastors of Piscataway. Gospel artist and actress Renee Connell will open the program with the Negro National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

The dinner, which raises funds for the NAACP Metuchen Edison Piscataway Area Branch’s scholarships, will honor five local community “legends” for their professional achievements, dedication and service to the community. They are: author, coach and emotional wellness advocate Kamryn Adams; Altice USA executive and former Obama Administration appointee Marilyn D. Davis; Edison Job Corps Academy business community liaison Julia Gibson; music producer and songwriter Paul Kyser; and business executive and community activist Byron Ward.

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“We are delighted to honor these five individuals for their achievements in their professional lives as well as their support and commitment to our local communities in the work they do and the values to which they have dedicated their lives,” said William Casey of the NAACP branch.

“With the great voices of Russell Thompkins Jr. and The New Stylistics joined by Renee Connell and the popular Singing Pastors of Piscataway on the program, we expect a joyful celebration for all in attendance.”

A Philadelphia native, Thompkins rose to fame as the lead singer of the original Stylistics. His distinctive falsetto distinguished the group’s string of top 10 Billboard singles including “Betcha By Golly Wow,” “Break Up to Make Up” and “Stone In Love With You.” Their honors include seven gold albums, five gold singles, two double gold singles, eight platinum albums, a double platinum album, four platinum singles, a Grammy for "You Make Me Feel Brand New," and a plaque on Philadelphia’s Walk of Fame.

After leaving the group in 2000, he began recording solo and subsequently formed The New Stylistics featuring Raymond Johnson and Jonathan Buckson. The band is led by musical director and pianist Kenny Thompson

Tickets to the event, including a full-course dinner and the performance, are $100. To reserve, go online to naacpmeab.org or send a check or money order payable to NAACP-MEAB to NAACP, PO Box 86, Edison, N.J. 08818. For more information, email Reggie Johnson at info@naacpmeab.org, or call 732-841-9023.

ABOUT THE HONOREES:

Kamryn Adams is an author, screenwriter, coach, blogger and businesswoman who writes from a Christian worldview. Her debut novel, "Par for the Curse" (2009) was awarded at the New York Book Festival, Baltimore Book Festival and considered for the NAACP Image Award in literature.  Her multimedia holding company, The Kamryn Adams Company, creates content for film, TV, online media and book publishing industries.

Marilyn D. Davis serves as New Jersey area director for government affairs for Altice USA. She previously worked at the Democratic National Committee as the national director of community engagement, and also in the Obama/Biden Administration as deputy director of the Office of Public Engagement in the U.S. Department of Labor, where she managed labor and African American outreach. 

Julia Gibson serves as business community liaison at the Edison Job Corps Academy, where she organizes events and creates effective community partnerships. Since joining the Edison Job Corps in 2016 as a career transition instructor, she has spearheaded numerous programs that have benefited both students and the community, including constructing a house with Habitat for Humanity for a family in need and creating art for Robert Wood Johnson’s Children’s Hospital.

Paul Kyser nurtured his love of music growing up in Jersey City, where he formed his first singing group at the age of 14. But it was his job with Public Service Electric & Gas Co. as its first black meter reader in that area that gave him the opportunity to attend Rutgers and major in music. Before graduating, he wrote and produced more than five hit records and worked with such groups as Brenda and the Tabulations and Tony Orlando and Dawn. He formed PI KAPPA Records and wrote and produced hits for Jimmy Briscoe and the Beavers, Soul Generations and  Russell Thompkins Jr. and The Stylistics. Kyser has written, produced, arranged and conducted more than 30 hit records, earned 12 gold records and five gold albums in addition to numerous award nominations.

Byron Ward is regional director/senior director of corporate engagement for Year Up, a national nonprofit organization that provides urban young adults with the skills, experience and support that will empower them to reach their potential through professional careers and higher education. Guided by the mission of “closing the opportunity divide in America,” he helps corporate executives find innovative solutions to entry- and mid-level hiring needs. He also has held leadership and board positions with community and philanthropic organizations.

ABOUT SHAILA:

Shaila began her career as a parttime announcer/hostess of a rhythm and blues program in Buffalo. After 10 years in professional radio, she joined the KISS FM family in 1994 and now adds a “sincere sister-friendly flava” to 107.5 WBLS. She was the first African American woman to win the New York City Teen Beauty Queen Pageant. In 2000, WPIX television and the New York Post named her one of the top five Radio Divas in New York.

ABOUT RENEE CONNELL:

Renee Connell has sung professionally with Kool and The Gang, Paul Simon, Donald Malloy and various artists. This path afforded her the opportunity to record and travel the world extensively. She received the 2011 NAACP Lorraine Hansberry Theatrical Award for writing and producing “The Candle Party,” an original inspirational play. She recently released her new album, “You Are a Shield for Me.”

ABOUT THE NAACP METUCHEN EDISON PISCATAWAY AREA BRANCH:

The Metuchen-Edison Branch of the NAACP was chartered in 1942 to support the efforts of black residents of those communities in their struggle for racial equality. During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ‘60s, members of the NAACP branch were instrumental in bringing about changes to discriminatory housing practices and segregation in local schools. The branch, which now encompasses Piscataway, continues to offer its members and the surrounding community timely programs and information on the status of civil rights in their communities.