​Erica Lewis

From the corridors of Corporate America, to the pantries of most elite commercial kitchens, Vonda McPherson has mastered it all…and she’s just getting started. A seasoned Sales Executive for a decade, Vonda McPherson has always had a knack for business, coupled with a flair for aesthetic style and the unforgettable orchestration of event coordination. Her chosen medium to express her creative muse has been the culinary arts and private and corporate event planning.

Duke’s Southern Table is the fourth restaurant that Vonda has opened. In 1998, Vonda McPherson opened her very first restaurant venture in Elizabeth, a bustling downtown business district. Shack’s BBQ, a neighborhood haven for a community in desperate need of quality food provided with an uncompromising dignified customer service philosophy. In addition to serving as a major employer of local residents, Shack’s BBQ became known as a destination for traditional Southern BBQ cuisine.

Following Shack’s BBQ, Vonda started her catering business, Vonda K’s Catering & Events. The makings of Vonda K’s Catering and Events were meticulously fashioned into a formal corporation to commence with serving the catering and special event planning desires of an emerging clientele that spanned from local families and community members to some of the most prominent corporations, organizations and political figures throughout the state of New Jersey.

The second restaurant venture launched by the Vonda Inc. Brand was The Greenhouse Café a partnership between Newark Housing Authority in an effort to reinvent to common cafeteria, by introducing healthier, yet equally delicious options.

Vonda’s Kitchen is the third restaurant venture to be launched by Vonda McPherson. Vonda’s Kitchen has rapidly become a fixture of one of most historic communities. Nestled in the heart of Newark, an area also known as the Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District (LPCCD), which is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, concept was for a welcoming space that would be strategically placed in the heart of a community on the upswing.  Her reputation for ground-breaking cuisine quickly spread throughout Newark and its surrounding area and landed her an opportunity to cater for the 2014 Super Bowl, where she had the opportunity to provide two classic dishes for the VIP Tailgate Party on Super Bowl Sunday. She has been featured in the Star Ledger, in Black Entrepreneurs, The Super Bowl Committee Business Connect Newsletter, Radius Magazine, as well as countless other media outlets.

Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins

Dr. Penn Served as Chief Resident Family Practice Medicine, St. Joseph’s Hospital/North Philadelphia Hospital System (2012-2013); National Health Corps Scholar; Faculty, Center for Mind Body Medicine, Washington, DC; Mind Body Skills Group Facilitator; Nationally Certified Health, Wellness, and Fitness Coach (Wellcoaches Inc.); Nationally Certified Personal Trainer; (National Council on Strength and Fitness); Certified Yoga Instructor. Dr. Penn is a graduate of the University of Medicine and Dentistry, New Jersey, School of Osteopathic Medicine (UMDNJ/SOM).

Dr. Carol Penn is a physician specializing in integrative Family Practice Medicine with a focus on mind body medicine, arts medicine, and nutrition medicine with an emphasis on prevention and wellness to optimize human potential. Additionally, Dr. Penn, has a strong interest in integrative approaches to palliative care medicine and is a published researcher in End of Life Care and Mind Body Medicine.

Equally passionate about holistic birthing practices, Dr. Penn served on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of Lamaze International for 12 years and continues to teach prepared childbirth education classes to encourage and support families embracing self care from the beginning of life.

Healthy Heritage Lifestyle  Sisters' Day of Wellness

Roslyn Daniels

Erica R Lewis is a professional fitness coach, author and choreographer.  She's been in the fitness industry for 15 years and has trained countless individuals towards their fitness, health, lifestyle and body image goals.  Having had her own struggles with weight and healthy living in the past, Erica has a keen insight of the needs of those looking to lose weight, develop a healthy lifestyle and embrace their body image. In 2009 she published her first book, The Body Business Plan, while producing her TV show E. Fit.  Currently Erica is the Program Director of Healthy Living with the Newark YMCA and she resides in NJ.


Dr. Jeanine B. Downie of Image Dermatology is licensed to practice not only in New Jersey but also in California and New York. Board certified by the American Board of Dermatology, she is also a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology. Her reputation for excellence and personal patient care have made her one of the most sought-after physicians in our area. 

She received her MD from State University of New York, Health Science Center at Brooklyn. Her extensive background in dermatology includes a residency in Pediatrics at Cornell Medical Center, New York Hospital and a residency in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center, where she also served as the Chief Dermatology Resident. In addition to her private practice, Dr. Downie is a staff member at Overlook and Mountainside Hospitals. 

Dr. Downie is a sought after lecturer and author of several dozen scientific papers. She has spoken on behalf of some of the most renowned medical societies, including the American Academy of Dermatology, The Skin Cancer Foundation, the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, and the Women's Dermatologic Society. Topics on which she speaks with expertise include photoaging, skin cancer, cosmeceuticals and injectibles, cosmetic dermatology, skin of color, and sun protection. She has also participated in numerous clinical trials for some of the top pharmaceutical companies. With a passion for education, Dr. Downie proudly services as an educator for the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery. She has also provided focused training on injectibles and fillers and has been a longstanding faculty member on Allergan's National Exchange Forum in which techniques are discussed.

Happy to share her knowledge with others, Dr. Downie has been interviewed and featured in numerous media outlets including The View, The Early Show, Good Morning America, The Today Show, Dr. Oz, GMA Health, The Wendy Williams Show, The Rachel Ray Show, Good Day New York, Fox 5 LIVE News,

In addition to radio and newsprint features and scientific publications, Dr. Downie
Dr. Downie is also a contributor to the best-selling book Living Beauty, Bobbie Brown Beauty Evolution and to Hair Rules by Anthony Dickey. Dr. Downie's own book, Beautiful Skin of Color, provides men and women with the comprehensive information they need to care for dark skin, olive skin, and Asian skin

Saint Michael’s Medical Center proudly announces Ogori Kalu, M.D. as one of the newest members of its medical staff. She brings a wealth of talent and experience to Saint Michael’s, which include serving as Director of Breast Surgery at University Hospital (Newark, NJ), and served as the Medical Director of Mountainside Hospital’s Breast Health Program (Montclair, NJ).

Dr. Kalu received her medical degree from New York Medical College. She completed her surgical residency at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, and her breast surgery oncology fellowship at Stanford University Hospital and Clinics.Dr. Kalu sees patients out of the Connie Dwyer Breast Center at Saint Michael’s and in her West Orange office.

​​Kelly Burgess, MBA, RD, LDN

Benita Perkins – is a widely acclaimed health and wellness branding expert focusing on the fitness needs of women and the special demands they must overcome to step into a lifetime of healthy living through fun, interactive lifestyle events.  Her company, Bennie Girl Healthy Lifestyle Branding Events, works with businesses and organizations to brand them as healthy lifestyle partners, by identifying opportune events and activities that will best define and communicate the organization’s mission, with the goal to eliminate health disparities. Her latest venture is Healthy Heritage Lifestyle Women’s Day of Wellness charged with providing healthy lifestyle information to women of color to reduce health disparities in the United States.

Benita has appeared at numerous events to promote her philosophy, including American Heart Association’s “Search Your Heart” seminars, American Diabetes events, the National Urban League conferences, Essence Music Festival, Black Enterprise Magazine’s annual events including Golf and Tennis Challenge and Women of Power Summit conferences, as well as national and local conferences and events.  She has been featured in national and local media including Essence Magazine, Ebony Magazine, Heart and Soul Magazine and Upscale Magazine, as well as television and radio talk shows in New York, Houston and Philadelphia.  She’s worked with Fortune 500 companies including Pepsico, McDonalds, CVS Caremark, Walgreens, Johnson and Johnson Company, Novartis Corporation and Pfizer Corporation, to provide fun interactive health and wellness events which audience feedback has confirmed as educational, fun and memorable.  In addition Benita also writes a blog under “BennieGirl Health and Wellness Divas” targeted to women over 40, which provides a variety of healthy lifestyle tips and information.

She also produced, “Taking It To A Higher Ground”, a fun, entertaining exercise DVD available at Benniegirl.com. This upbeat step and upper body workout is set to motivating gospel music.  Be inspired by the message and motivated by the music!,  Benita is a member of the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA), the National Association of Sports Medicine (NASM) and the AAI/ISMA Aerobics Association.   She is also a founding member of “Mothers Off Duty”, a group dedicated to women taking care of themselves. 

About the Speakers

Kelly Burgess is a licensed and registered dietitian, public speaker and author. In 2009, she established To Better Health, LLC, a nutrition counseling practice with two offices in New Jersey.  Kelly and her team of licensed and registered dietitians provide food, physical activity, and lifestyle education to individuals of all ages, families and groups in her offices. She is an in-network provider with several private and government funded health insurance agencies. Prior to starting the private practice, Kelly provided medical nutrition therapy to patients and the general public in hospitals, fitness centers, employer settings, and other medical and non-medical facilities. Kelly’s public speaking experience consists of employer and organization sponsored lunch and learns, nutrition seminars, cooking demonstrations, and grocery shopping tours.

Kelly has always had passion for health science and preventive nutrition. She understands and educates others about engaging in healthy diet and lifestyle to prevent and successfully managing obesity, eating disorders, and other long-term, quality-of-life lowering diseases such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. She also counsels pregnant/breast feeding mothers and fitness/sports enthusiasts. Despite a family history of chronic illnesses, Kelly has successfully reduced her personal risk of chronic disease and need for medications. 

Kelly has a Bachelor of Science in Health Science from University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) and holds a Master of Business Administration in Marketing / Management, and Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management from the Pennsylvania State University. Kelly was born in New Jersey, raised in the Caribbean, Find out more information about Kelly at www.tobetterhealthnutrition.com, Facebook (To Better Health LLC), LinkedIn (Kelly Burgess), and Twitter (@KellyBurgessRD) You can also find Kelly at www.DietaryDivas.com and Dietary Divas social media including YouTube, Facebook (Dietary Divas), Twitter (@DietaryDivas), Instagram (@dietarydivas)

Dr. Ogori Kalu, Oncologist

Central Ward Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins brings more than twenty years of experience in public policy, economic and community development and marketing to the City of Newark, with a focus of improving the quality of life for all residents and stakeholders. Gayle spent several years working in community service including Director of Public Relations and Marketing for Babyland Family Services founded by her mother and her Aunt Mary Smith.  Babyland Family Services is the oldest and largest early childhood education institution in the State of New Jersey.

After an eight year absence from public office, Gayle was overwhelmingly re-elected to serve as Councilwoman for the Central Ward on June 10, 2014. The Central Ward Councilwoman has been a conscious, outspoken voice about the importance of protecting the legacy of communities by further developing economic opportunities, and creating a sound infrastructure that will sustain and expand resources for all members of the Newark Community. She has been appointed to serve on several committees, among them:

Chair, Economic Development Committee, Newark Municipal Council
Member, Administration Committee, Newark Municipal Council
Member of the Board, Newark Housing Authority
Member of the Board, Joint Meeting of Essex & Union Counties
Member of the Board, North Jersey District Water Supply Commission

TDaniels directs key aspects of Black Health Matters including strategy, revenue generation, sales development, client services, custom solutions, research, and trade marketing. She also leads the public relations and corporate branding departments for the company. Daniels also serves as CEO, of The Daniels Network, the holding company for Black Health Matters Multi-Channel Communications, LLC. Founded in 2003, The Daniels Network provides pharmaceutical and healthcare companies an array of marketing solutions, including strategic insights, DTC branding, digital innovation and public relations. Past clients have included: Boehringer Ingelheim, Coca-Cola Live Positively, Eli Lilly and Merck. Previously, Daniels was Director of Business Development for BET Networks and spearheaded the launch of Fitness magazine. Daniels is a graduate of Boston University.ype your paragraph here.