essex county commissioners honor local leaders for african american history month

L to R: Comm’r Murray-Thomas, Elsie Barrick, Comm’r Richardson, “Chief” Eddie Fuquon Brown, Comm’r Sebold, Sakina Pitts, Comm’r Graham, Comm’r Gill

(Newark, NJ) – On Thursday, February 15, the Essex County Board of County Commissioners held its annual celebration for African American History Month. This event celebrates the accomplishments of and honor outstanding black and brown men and women of Essex County for their unique contributions to the Essex community and society as a whole.

This year, the Board recognized Elsie Barrick, real estate and community leader of Montclair; “Chief” Eddie Fuquon Brown, founder of Fuquon’s Federation of Martial Arts in Newark; Sakina Pitts, Principal of the Newark School of Fashion and Design; and Talia L. Young, President and CEO of Newark Symphony Hall.

“On behalf of the Board, we are proud to celebrate these dedicated individuals, especially among the recent surge of racial hatred and injustice since the pandemic. Their good work is a testament to our resilience and determination to move the needle of our nation toward true liberty for all,” said Commissioner Vice President Tyshammie L. Cooper. “To our honorees, your accomplishments have made each of you great leaders. Against the backdrop of our history, and present day, of racial systemic injustice, we must continue to lift up and empower our communities who have been hurt the most.”

During the occasion, prayers were delivered by Minister Jesse M. Branson, Jr., Associate Pastor at New Hope Baptist Church of East Orange, and the audience was captivated by the musical talents of the Aurway Ensemble of Newark (

See pictures of the event here. Watch a recording of the event here.



Elsie Barrick, presented by Commissioner Brendan W. Gill, is a second-generation Montclair resident, a graduate of Montclair High School and Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina, a private HBCU. She began her real estate career in 1986, after completing a Master’s Degree in Consumer Economics at Montclair State University. Elsie has worked in an array of roles in her real estate career: full-time sales agent, licensed Real Estate Broker, Certified Residential Specialist, Accredited Buyer’s Representative, Seller Representative Specialist, Senior Real Estate Specialist, licensed real estate instructor, and the Broker manager of the Montclair Office of Brown Harris Stevens New Jersey. In 2017 she was named Agent of the Year by the West Essex Board of Realtors. Elsie is the President of the Board of Directors of First Montclair House, a HUD-subsidized Senior Housing Apartment Building, which is owned and managed by a nonprofit organization. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Montclair Senior Housing, and for South End Gardens. Elsie Barrick is a Legacy Life Member of the National Council of Negro Women, Inc, an “organization of organizations” that enlightens, inspires, and connects more than 2,000,000 women and men. She currently serves as Second Vice President for the Montclair Section. Elsie is a member and Deacon at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Montclair. She is the proud mother of Jason Barrick and Jillian Barrick and future son-in-law, Clive Antoine.

“Chief” Eddie Fuquon Brown, presented by Commissioner Wayne L. Richardson, founded Fuquon’s Federation of Martial Arts in 1993. The Federation has a reputation for intense training, demanding hard work, both mentally and physically. The instructors and students have won state, regional and national championships. Eddie started training at 7 years old under the instruction of his brother, John H. Brown, a brown belt at the time. He trained in the backyard and public parks before moving on to an accredited martial arts school where he received a black belt from Grand Master Bruce Marshall. Today, he holds the rank of Grand Master 8th degree black belt. He has studied various forms of martial arts including Kung Fu, Judo, and Tae Kwon Do. Eddie created his own style by taking the best techniques from each of these, called “The Hardcore Martial Arts System.” It has proven to be a dominant and competitive form of martial arts that ranks with the best styles. Eddie was inducted into the World Karate Union Hall of Fame in 1996, and the North American Federation of Martial Arts Karate Hall of Fame in 2008, which also presented him with the National Instructor award in 2013. The most prestigious award he received was in 2002: the Rosa Parks Wall of Tolerance Award. He works as Executive Security for Don King, DK Production, and Iron Mike Tyson himself. Eddie also retired from the Newark Police Department with over 25-years of service to the residents of Newark. He was also the head karate instructor for the Police Athletic League.

Sakina Pitts, presented by Vice President Cooper on behalf of Commissioner Robert Mercado, has been an advocate and change agent for the students in her hometown, the great historic city of Newark, for over 20 years. In 2021, Sakina was appointed Principal of the Newark School of Fashion and Design. For the five years before that, she was the proud Principal of Chancellor Avenue School, where she attended as a student. Sakina earned a B.S. in Business at Morgan State University, a National Treasure, leading research institution, and acclaimed HBCU. Sakina would go on to earn a master's degree from Seton Hall University in Education, Leadership, Management and Policy. Even while attending school, teaching, and seeing to many other responsibilities, she still found time to mentor and participate in community initiatives. In her role at NSFD, she tackles the arduous and daunting daily tasks of ensuring that her students are in an environment where cultural relevance, safety, nutrition, discipline, and maximizing their fullest potential are on full display. Under her leadership, test scores, community relations, and parental involvement have significantly improved. As a member of the “Off School Grounds” Educational Coalition, she has collaborated with like-minded school leaders around the country dedicated to closing equity gaps and effectuating real change in their school-wide communities. Sakina is also an engaging public speaker who is passionate about infusing Hip Hop culture into education. She can be seen around school, in her leadership forums, leading meetings, and connecting with her community by “dropping lines.”

Talia L. Young, presented by Commissioner Patricia Sebold, is a businesswoman and career professional with nearly eighteen years of experience in entrepreneurship, economic development, social impact initiatives and federal government policy. Talia has emerged as a bold and unconventional creative visionary, forging a sustainable social impact future for New Jersey’s Largest Black Lead Entertainment and Arts Institution: Newark Symphony Hall. In 2020, Talia founded Space 2 Create Social Impact Community Development Corporation (S2C), with the mission to open doors to economic equity and sustainability in communities of color. Talia has served as the Vice President of Public and Government Relations for City National Bank of NJ—New Jersey’s first Black owned and operated bank. During her tenure, this institution received the “NJ Bankers Community Service Award” for social impact initiatives. Talia also served as the Senior Project and Policy Manager under the late U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, where she oversaw a policy portfolio that covered Economic Development, Education, Banking, Faith Based Initiatives and Urban Communities. In 2022, she launched JUNE-TEE, a full-day experience for men, women, and families with panels, social events, and celebration, in celebration of Juneteenth and Black Economic Empowerment.

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Essex County Board of County Commissioners
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