RAHWAY, NJ - Union County's 2017 Black History Month Celebration was held Monday night at the Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway.

It began with the bestowing of the Chester Holmes Humanitarian Award.  This award named for former freeholder Chester Holmes to honor a candidate that “displays outstanding devotion to the people of Union County through their service and volunteer work”.  Freeholder Vernell Wright of Union was the recipient. Vernell has over seventy years of service as an educator Science department head school principal Board member of nonprofits, etc. She was awarded the New Jersey Association of Counties with the “Freeholder of the Year” award in 2016.

In accepting her award Vernell Wright said, “As I reflect on the little girl who grew up in Camden South Carolina, drinking from a colored only water fountain and being told to sit in the back of the bus – these experiences motivated me to make a difference in the lives of others.”

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"The Star-Spangled Banner" and the "Black Nation Anthem" were sung by the Linden High School Madrigals.

The evening ended with “A Beautiful Symphony of Brotherhood”, a musical journey in the life of Martin Luther King Jr. The performance was narrated by Terrance McKnight of WQXR.  Angela Owens and Justin Austin sang dramatic and touching period music and favorites of Dr. King.