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AACCNJ President & CEO John Harmon

Michele Siekerka

NJBIA President & CEO Michele Siekerka, Esq.

The New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA) and the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey (AACCNJ) have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to drive diversity and inclusion in workforce development, employment advancement, corporate boards and suppliers through a formalized pledge signed by New Jersey executives. 

The CEO Pledge established by the two groups will call for lead executives to commit to a set of diversity and inclusion-related goals and be scored by a collaborative workgroup on a series of metrics to ensure progress on those goals are being met on a quarterly basis. 

“There has been a heightened awareness of the AACCNJ, as many have joined our mission as a result of the devastating impact of COVID-19 on Blacks and Black businesses,” said John E. Harmon, Sr., IOM, Founder, President & CEO, AACCNJ. “We have used this increased visibility as a ‘Call to Action’ to our corporate partners, and many have answered the call. Yet there is still more that needs to be done.” 

 “There are so many businesses that want to address the inequities that exist in the workplace, but this pledge is all about truly moving the needle and walking the walk,” NJBIA President and CEO Michele Siekerka said. “It puts our businesses on a pathway to equality and ensures action and accountability. We believe this will be a game-changer in bringing more diversity to workplaces and on boards throughout the state.” 

Metrics to be scored by those signing onto the CEO Pledge will include, but not be limited to: 

  • Increases in the number of Black people on boards of directors for participating companies. 
  • Increases in the number of Black people serving on other corporate boards of directors. 
  • Increases in workforce development, recruitment and employment advancement opportunities for Black people. 
  • Increases in procurement and supply chain opportunities for Black people or Black-owned businesses. 
  • Creation of good corporate citizenship programs that will positively impact the social and economic standing of Black people or Black-owned businesses within a community. 

The MOU is the culmination of continued talks that commenced last July when the AACCNJ and NJBIA hosted an executive roundtable that focused on increasing diversity and inclusion throughout all levels of the workforce, procurement, and the supply chain. 

Both groups have already started the process of recruiting participating businesses. Businesses of all sizes are encouraged to take part in the pledge. 

“In a two-day Diversity & Inclusion summit hosted by NJBIA on March 31 and April 1, we heard from many businesses wanting to do the right thing and from many in the community on how far we have to go to improve the economic inequities that exist for Black individuals,” Siekerka said. “With this increased awareness and willingness to bring change, we’re optimistic that executives will want to take the pledge.” 

Since its inception in 2007, AACCNJ statewide, nationally, and globally, has labored consistently to use its platform to magnify the economic conditions of Black people, and Black businesses and their efforts to keep pace with the mainstream even during a normal economic environment. 

  “It is beyond time to increase economic opportunities for Black people and Black businesses,” Harmon added. “For those businesses that take the pledge, we are certain that creating these opportunities for a more diverse and inclusive workforce will help to improve each businesses’ bottom line. It will also improve their organization’s culture, which will align with building consensus for a more equitable trajectory for Black businesses. We welcome the opportunity to serve as a conduit for diversity in the marketplace.” 

About the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey
The African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey (AACCNJ) performs an essential role in the economic viability of New Jersey.  While providing a platform for New Jersey’s African American business leaders, to speak with a collective voice, the AACCNJ advocates and promotes economic diversity fostering a climate of business growth through major initiatives centering on education and public policy. The Chamber serves as a proactive advocacy group with a 501(c) 3 tax exemption, which is shared by the National Black Chamber of Commerce. 


About the New Jersey Business & Industry Association
In its 111th year of existence, the New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA) is New Jersey’s largest statewide employer association. The association advances the competitive excellence and financial success of its members by championing a competitive business climate, delivering member value through essential information and services, and facilitating partnership among business, government and academia. NJBIA sets a vision of New Jersey reclaiming its stature as the Innovation State, and making it the home of economic vitality, business prosperity and workforce skill excellence.