WEST ORANGE, NJ — Students at Roosevelt Middle School (RMS) in West Orange recently celebrated Black History Month with the presentation of “McDonald’s Salutes ‘The Faces of Black History Tour.’”

The 18-year-old tour, sponsored by the Tri-State owners and operators of McDonald’s, brought several members of the West Orange community to RMS—including McDonald’s representatives Karen Thomas, Director of Operations of the recently renovated McDonald’s in Orange, and Angela Adderley, owner of seven McDonald’s in surrounding neighborhoods, as well as West Orange Board of Education (WOBOE) members, Superintendent of Schools Dr. J. Scott Cascone and Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Eveny de Mendez.

According to Terry Gadson, manager of the month-long tour and director of operations at Newark-based production agency Irving Street Rep, the program discusses the accomplishments and contributions of African Americans. This includes well-known historical figures ranging from Harriet Tubman to President Barack Obama and others who are not typically seen in textbooks.

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“We take you through a journey of our history from the early 1800’s all the way to [present day] with music, monologues and different songs,” said Gadson. “I’d like to call it an off-Broadway type of musical, but with an educational swing on it. In a unique manner, we just educate the kids; [but] some of the teachers enjoy it even more than the kids.”

Prior to the RMS performance, Principal Lionel Hush thanked all those who helped to make the presentation of the production possible and specifically acknowledged West Orange resident John Blanton of JGB Ventures, a consulting agency that places students in co-ops and internships.

The program, which focused on the performing talents of Tarra Jones, Tenna Torres, Jonathan Celestine, Brian Shirley and Avionae Hoyles, discussed the contributions of African Americans in several domains, including sports, medicine, engineering, politics, music, business and more.

The performers acted out the athletic prowess of Mohammad Ali, Wilma Rudolph, Usain Bolt and Kobe Bryant and celebrated the accomplishments of Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, the first surgeon to perform open-heart surgery, and Robert Lee Dunham, who opened the first McDonald’s location in Manhattan.  

Students in the audience were also invited on stage to celebrate the musical contributions of James Brown, Prince, Michael Jackson and Beyoncé.

“Today, I hope you have an opportunity to see what McDonald’s is all about,” said Thomas as she reflected on the program. “Yes, we sell your burgers and french fries and shakes, but we also love to give back to the community.

“We want to make sure that everyone understands how this county developed and how companies did that and how individuals can make an impact no matter where you go.”