South Orange Administrator Bob Zuckerman was one of three recipients to receive the Essex County Pride Award from Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. of the Office of LGBTQ Affairs of Essex County and the Essex County LGBTQ Advisory Council on June 30. Zuckerman shared the honor with Sharronda “Love” Wheeler, Chair of the Board of Newark Pride Inc. and Julio C. Roman, Founder and CEO of OUT Agency.
From Essex County, New Jersey:
Newark, New Jersey- Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr., the Essex County Office of LGBTQ Affairs, and the Essex County LGBTQ Advisory Council hosted the County’s LGBTQ Pride Month celebration. Essex on Thursday June 30. During the ceremony, DiVincenzo presented Pride of Essex County Awards. at Sharronda “Love” Wheeler Chairman of the Board of Newark Pride Inc.; Bob Zuckerman, administrator of South Orange and Julio C.Romanfounder and CEO of the OUT agency in recognition of their support in the fight for equality for members of the LGBTQ community.
“Each year in Essex County we celebrate Pride Month and our LGBTQ community. This is our opportunity to raise awareness of the issues affecting this segment of the population and to recognize outstanding members of our own LGBTQ community,” DiVincenzo said. “Our three laureates have done the hard work in their respective fields of support, protection of human rights and promotion of understanding,” he remarked.
“Essex County has been a pioneer in advancing LGBTQ rights through the leadership of our County Executive. Under his leadership, the county began providing health insurance coverage to partners of Essex County employees regardless of sexual orientation in 2007, the Essex County LGBTQ Advisory Council was established in 2011, programs offered by the Essex County Office for Small Business Development provide education for LGBTQ on the public procurement process and most recently the establishment of the Essex County Office of LGBTQ Affairs in 2022, where I am honored to be the first director,” said Reginald Bledsoe, Office Director of Essex County LGBTQ Affairs.
Sharronda “Love” Wheeler is currently Chairman of the Board of Newark Pride Inc. In this role, Ms. Wheeler leaned and stabilized the organization by securing 501(c)3 status, BOD insurance, corporate sponsorship and expanding the vision to increase participation in programs, services and resource referrals. She is also an independent senior care consultant, and in her role as Community Angel Care Advisor, contracts with several insurance agencies to determine the best way to meet their medical needs. Ms. Wheeler worked for 12 years at SHP Management, where she managed publicly funded, data-driven programs that provided social services to seniors, families, people with developmental disabilities, parents and caregivers. children. She has been recognized for three consecutive years by the NJ LGBTQ Political Powerlist of 100 People Moving Forward in the State. Each year, we progress on the list from number 70 to 21.
“It is an honor to be here and to receive this recognition. I don’t do the work to be recognized, but I do it because there is work to be done and someone has to do it,” Wheeler said. “I do everything I do with all my heart and I’m grateful to have people I can call to set things up and make things happen for people. I am seen as a bridge to the services and help they need,” she added.
Bob Zuckerman was elected to the South Orange Village Board of Directors in May 2019 and became the first openly LGBTQ director in South Orange history. From 2013 to 2019, he served as Executive Director of the South Orange Village Center Alliance, the non-profit organization that operates the South Orange Downtown Special Improvement District. Zuckerman is also a proud Essex County native, born in Newark and raised in Livingston. After spending several years in Brooklyn and Manhattan, Zuckerman and her husband Grant Neumann, vice president of Random House, returned to their Essex County roots in 2014 to settle in South Orange.
Bob presided over the opening of over two dozen new businesses during his tenure at SOVCA and personally recruited many of these businesses. He was also responsible for adding new murals and artwork downtown and helped revitalize Spiotta Park and the area under the railway viaduct. In addition to his work with SOVCA, he previously served on the board of governors of the South Orange Performing Arts Centre, chairing the board’s outreach and education committee. Additionally, he is still a member of the village development committee, adding his small business expertise to development issues throughout the village. He was a founding member of the Design Review Board, an advisory board that helps business owners spruce up their storefronts, and he also helped lead South Orange’s Business Code Review Task Force, a group made up of business owners and government officials who have been working to facilitate the opening of a small business in South Orange. Additionally, he is president of Downtown New Jersey, a non-profit organization that champions the state’s downtown areas.
“I have to thank DiVincenzo County Executive as it is a huge honor to be recognized here today for my work as the first openly LGBTQ Village Trustee in South Orange. I may be the first, but I’m confident I won’t be the last,” Zuckerman said. “Pride events are now taking place across Essex County and it’s a testament to all of our collective work. It’s important that we LGBTQ people , let’s have a place at the table to continue to do the work and move the initiatives forward,” he added.
Julio C.Roman, a safe space expert and advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights, accepted his calling in LGBTQIA+ activism and safe space design at the age of 16. Since then, Mr. Roman has dedicated more than 22 years to creating LGBTQIA+ safe spaces and advancing the health equality and social justice initiatives of black and brown lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, and other marginalized communities affected by HIV/AIDS and its related health, social and economic disparities. Her experience lies in safe space design, HIV prevention and harm reduction programming, community engagement, LGBTQIA+ advocacy, leadership development, and LGBTQIA+ organizational development. He often presents and publishes his public health findings at the local, state, and national levels. He has been honored to represent the LGBTQIA+ community at Capitol Hill DC, Department of State DC, Global Monetary Fund DC, and United Nations NYC. And continues to be listed on Insider NJ’s “Out 100: The LGBT Power List” for her leadership in community organizing and HIV/AIDS work.
Roman is a founding member and co-founder of two LGBTQIA+ centers in the city of Newark. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of ARK of Freedom Alliance, a national anti-human trafficking organization, and is a proud LGBTQIA+ commissioner for Newark. He continues to work with LGBTQIA+ organizations nationwide and is the proud author of the new bestseller Out of Space: Creating Safe Spaces in Unlikely Places. He resides in Newark with his partner.
“We hear of acts of violence against black and brown people, transgender people, which shows that the constitutional rights and freedoms of LGBTQ people or those who exist at its intersections are not guaranteed. Thank you, County Manager, for this honor. I am honored to receive this award, not just for myself, but for all black and brown, queer and LGBTQ people who have partnered with me to create safe spaces and build community,” Roman said.
The Essex County LGBTQ Pride Month celebration is part of a year-long cultural series created by County Executive DiVincenzo to highlight the diversity of Essex County. Other cultural heritage celebrations include African American History Month, Irish Heritage Month, Women’s History Month, Italian Heritage Month, Jewish Heritage, Portuguese Heritage and Latino Heritage . Established in December 2010, the Essex County Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Advisory Council is one of many volunteer advisory councils that discuss issues affecting the community and make recommendations to the county executive. of Essex.