PATERSON, NJ - For many, former Eastside High School principal Joe Clark is little more than the main character in the 1989 movie Lean on Me. Played by Morgan Freeman, Clark, in the movie, is seen as the bat and bullhorn wielding leader of an inner city school besieged by drugs and violence.
However, for thousands of students that attended Eastside during his tenure from 1982-1989, including Dr. Pinky Miller, Clark was a figure that that had a great impact, both positive and negative, on a generation of Patersonians, as well as the education system as whole.
Now an educator, author, filmmaker and motivational speaker in Georgia, Miller is leading an effort to commemorate the role that Clark played in so many lives, including students, teachers, administrators, and the community, and using the 30th anniversary of the film’s initial release to organize a weekend’s worth of events, March 1-3, that will help to raise scholarship funds for Paterson students.
The weekend’s festivities begin with a free screening of the iconic film, as well as a special performance of a portion of "Lean on Me: The Musical" produced by William "Big Worm" Blount and Donald Gray, and starring members of musical performing group Riff and Jermaine (Sam) Hopkins, at Eastside High School beginning at 5:00 p.m. This is followed by an Eastside High School Reunion for all classes with food, fun, and dancing at Alpha Performing Arts, 211 Lackawanna Ave, Woodland Park. The reception, for guests 21 and over, is just $20 and begins at 9:00 p.m. Guests are encouraged to arrive dressed up as their favorite Lean on Me character, or wear something from their high school years.
On Saturday, organizers will host a scholarship luncheon and celebration at Eastside High School beginning at 1:00. Tickets for the event are just $40 and include keynote addresses by Freeholder T.J. Best as well as three time Olympic athlete, and daughter of Joe Clark, Hazel Clark.
Guests who purchase a ticket for just $40 will be back at Alpha Performing Arts for a VIP/Red Carpet Reception on Saturday evening beginning at 8:00 p.m.
Riff will provide musical performances at both the scholarship luncheon and the VIP/Red Carpet reception.
The weekend will conclude on Sunday for a special worship service, potluck meal, and documentary interviews beginning at 11:00 a.m. at Life Changing World Church, 522 W. Broadway in Haledon.
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