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Black History Scholarship Dinner Connects Past, Present, and Future

WEST ORANGE, NJ – The annual West Orange High School Black History Scholarship dinner, held Feb. 7, connected the community to the past, present, and future history of the black experience locally and worldwide through words, song, and dance.


Guest Speaker Lawrence Hamm offered a powerful historical perspective of black history in New Jersey, describing the state’s use of slaves and hesitation to vote for the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery. He described the Emancipation Proclamation as a tool used to recruit slaves looking to gain their freedom, and how it added the needed boost to the Union Army to win the Civil War.


“We still wrestle with inclusion and exclusion,” said Hamm, “when the future of America is a pluralistic society.”


“The beginning of Black History is the beginning of human history,” he added, “and there is only one history of race, and that is the human race.”


Hamm advocated for the inclusion of all cultures and races in historical teaching, because “we should not rest until all histories are included.”


Several musical performances were interspersed throughout the evening celebrating the musical accomplishments of black musicians: “It Don’t Mean a Thing” and “Satin Doll,” (Duke Ellington), “Strange Fruit,” (Billie Holiday), “Summertime,” (Porgy and Bess), “Misty,” (Erroll Garner”) and “All I Could Do Was Cry” and “At Last,” by Etta James. The Jubilee Choir, under the direction of Michelle Brown, offered gospel tunes.


A lilting dance performance by Gabrielle Rembert, along with the Girls and Boys Step Teams, entertained. Olivia Ridley, Kai McCall, and Mariana Simpson recited original spoken word poems.


“At West Orange High School, we are a family,” said Principal Hayden Moore. “Our diversity is our strength and we celebrate all our students. It’s important to recognize the accomplishments of those whose shoulders we stand upon, and our annual Black History celebration does that.”


The event was organized by the Student Council and all monies raised will be used to provide scholarships for graduating seniors.


See all the photos from the WOHS Black History Scholarship Dinner here.


Black History

WOHS Principal Hayden Moore, Student Council Advisor Catherine Connors, SC Co-President Kaia Baker, SC VP Arthi Sivendra, SC Co-President Brett Zeligson, SC Social Media Coordinator Rian DeVera, SC Advisor Katherine Garcia, Superintendent Dr. Scott Cascone. 

Black History

Guest speaker Lawrence Hamm delivers a riveting speech.

Black History

The Jubilee Choir performs.

Black History

Girls Step Team.

Black History  

Boys Step Team.


Cynthia Cumming
Feb. 8, 2020