‘Education is an important weapon against injustice’

Lawrence High School celebrates Black History Month

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Courtesy of Lawrence Township Public Schools Lawrence High School's annual Black History Month celebration was held on Feb. 24

The founder of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey and an African-born entrepreneur were among four “trailblazers” honored at Lawrence High School’s annual Black History Month celebration Feb. 24.

The Black History Month celebration began with displays by Black-owned businesses that offered hand-made jewelry, clothing and books for sale in the Lawrence High School Commons.

Courtesy of Lawrence Township Public Schools Lawrence High School’s annual Black History Month celebration was held on Feb. 24

Attendees sampled an array of food – from Caribbean jerk chicken to fried chicken, collard greens, corn bread, rice and caramelized yams with marshmallows.

After attendees’ appetites were sated, the celebration moved into the Lawrence High School auditorium. They were welcomed by Superintendent of Schools Robyn Klim and Lawrence High School Assistant Principal Brenda Eke.

The tone for the program was set by the Lawrence High School Gospel Choir and the the Lawrence High School Madrigal, which sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the Negro national anthem.

The Renaissance Jazz Band entertained the audience, followed by additional performances by Pitch Black, which is the Lawrence Intermediate School’s advanced choir.

The Lawrence High School Honors Choir, the Lawrence High School Jazz Band and the Lawrence High School Select Ensemble also performed.

Photo by Lea Kahn/Staff Lawrence High School’s annual Black History Month celebration was held on Feb. 24

Student Aizenomo Akhimien read a poem – “Pain Like Nothing.”

Keynote speaker Rev. Charles Boyer greeted the “resilient and brilliant students” of Lawrence High School, in a nod to the celebration’s theme of “Black Resilience: Upward and Onward.”

Courtesy of Lawrence Township Public Schools Lawrence High School’s annual Black History Month celebration was held on Feb. 24

“I greet you in the name of the ancestors as we gather in this sacred learning space. We stand on the shoulders of giants,” Boyer said. He is the pastor of the Greater Mount Zion AME Church in Trenton.

“You are not just students. You are here to gain knowledge to help people. Education is an important weapon against injustice,” Boyer said.

Boyer shared his personal story of growing up in poverty in Plainfield. His circumstances led him to anger, despair and drug addiction.

But he changed his life’s trajectory. If it were not for “God, the village and other Blacks who taught him about Black history,” he would be in a different place than he is today, Boyer said.

“I challenge you to learn about Black heroes. Today, as we celebrate heroes, we are bound by a common history. We should have a collective vision for a better world,” he said.

Wrapping up his comments, Boyer quoted the African proverb – “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Interspersed throughout the program, the four honorees were presented with the Trailblazer Award in acknowledgment of their accomplishments.

John Harmon was recognized for his role in helping to create the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey. He works to connect chamber members and supporters to resources to help them grow their businesses.

Bernice Flynn-Addo’sson blazed a trail in entrepreneurship. She immigrated to the United States from Ghana and established AfriPrintz, which sells African-inspired clothing.

Lance Lopez, who worked for the New Jersey Department of Corrections for 25 years, is now the project manager and head of veteran and community recruitment at the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program.

Dionne Hallback was honored for her work in higher education, including financial aid, student accounts, project implementation, teaching and counseling at several institutions. She is an associate director of financial aid at The College of New Jersey.

The celebration ended on a somber note with a tribute to the late Pastor James Clarke Jr., who is the father of Lawrence High School social studies teacher Jametta Clarke. She is the adviser to the Black History Celebration event.

Clarke, who died in February, was praised as a man of many talents. He was described as a patriarch, preacher, entrepreneur and activist whose legacy of love, faith and service will continue to inspire generations to come.