West Orange High School Celebrates Nelson Mandela and Black History Month

Credits: Sy Jenkins
Credits: Sy Jenkins
Credits: Sy Jenkins
Credits: Sy Jenkins

WEST ORANGE,NJ—On Feb. 7, West Orange High School held their annual Black History Month Dinner Celebration, this year in Memory of the late Nelson Mandela.

The event began with Ashlei Martinez and Devin Close singing the National Anthem, followed by a Welcome by West Orange High School principal Hayden Moore and a tribute to Nelson Mandela, including a video presentation.

Following the video tribute and poem reading, Guest Speaker Akil Okayi Khalfani Ph.D spoke not only of Nelson Mandela and his dreams, but about freedom, and how “freedom is an idea.” He talked about "Ubuntu," a South African humanitarian view. He finished his speech by encouraging the younger generation to make a change in the world and “walk like an elephant and STOMP!”

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The Afrique Dancers, introduced by dancer and WOHS treasurer, Ifeoma Odoemena, performed a medley of African songs. Ifeoma says that it’s been stressful practicing, but believes that it’s all worth it and she’s happy that everybody did well.

During dinner, house band played as guests chatted.  The program continued with a performance by the West Orange High School Girls Drill Team, New Theta Omega. The girls began with a verse from Beyoncé’s “Flawless (feat. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)” and shared strong feminist narratives and empowering messages intertwined with step dance.

The West Orange High School Unity club also performed a series of influential poems, including Langston Hughes’ “As I Grew Older,” and Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise,” spoken by WOHS junior Amber McCleese. Senior Yame Larame then performed Angelou's “Phenomenal Woman,” and Junior Justin Scott Young presented  his original poem, “They Said.”

Musical performances included Ashlei Martinez singing Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good;” Jade Remar singing India.Arie; and Catherine Parker, who was accompanied by the house band and backup vocals by Ashlei Martinez, Devin Close, and Jade Remar.

Closing the event was the award-winning West Orange High School Ab-salute Step Team, who amazed the audience with their humorous and intense performance, including fight scenes, rock-paper-scissors, and studying for a black history test.

West Orange High School Principal Hayen Moore said, “Everybody performed well and the effort was tremendous. I know what we are capable of and am happy to showcase this every year. It overwhelms me with pride. I love these kids and I love what we do.”

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