WEST ORANGE, NJ - On Feb. 20, the West Orange High School Student Council hosted its annual Black History Dinner to celebrate Black History month and showcase the talents of students at the high school. The night included two speakers: Charles Brown, assistant dean at Rutgers Business School, and Tyrone Corbett, songwriter, gospel singer, and producer. Both speakers emphasized the importance of education—not just for African Americans, but for all people.

Corbett encouraged the students present, saying, “If you propel with education you can overcome any obstacle.”

Amidst black and silver balloons, in a room filled by friends, residents, students, faculty and friends, WOHS Principal Hayden Moore spoke about what black history means to him and its impact on society. Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements and a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in US history, he explained.

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Guests dined on a buffet dinner of salad, cornbread, chicken, baked macaroni and cheese, yams and an assortment of desserts provided by Sodexo, while the jazz band played in the middle of the room.

Student Council advisors Jodi Costanza and Krista Romanyshyn were present, ensuring that the night moved smoothly.

“It’s a very important night for West Orange,” said Romanyshyn.

As guests danced by their chairs all night long, students performed solo dances and in dance groups, there were also poetry readings, duets, and an assortment of music selections. The performers included Brendan Peart, Nyasia Foster, Gabriella Rodriguez, Paul Okoh, Kefi Mutume, and many more. In addition, the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps led the flag salute, while Daniella Rodriguez sang the National Anthem. Mia Osobo led the National Black Anthem, “Life Every Voice.”

Unity Club Co-Presidents, Zachary Ames and Anita Calmday, also spoke at the event on the importance of Black History Month, citing that “(Black History Month) helps people remember the dangers of racial and socioeconomic oppression, which affects more than just Blacks.”

Afterwards, members of the Unity Club recited a poem written by Lillian Umetiti. The poem was followed by performances from the boys and girls step teams.

“It’s great to be able to see the talents of my classmates, while also appreciating culture and the accomplishments of African Americans,” said guest and student Alana Bennett.

The night ended as guests applauded and gave thanks to the WOHS students for honoring Black History Month. 

“Nothing is ever planned to perfection, but the night itself was a great success and I’m just so happy everyone had a good time,” said Student Council Vice President Kathiana Cajuste. 

Anita Calmday is a student at West Orange High School Student participating in a journalism program with TAPinto.net.