Back in February, the Montclair State University community celebrated Black History Month along with the rest of the country. One Montclair State student, however, wanted to take the celebration one step further by sharing the Black History festivities of Montclair State with the youth of his community.
Senior political science major Jordan Stewart planned and executed a Black History Month assembly for the students of his old school, David Brearley Middle and High School (DBHS) in Kenilworth, New Jersey on Feb. 24. At his time in DBHS, Stewart felt there was a lack of representation for the small but prevalent community of people of color attending school. Stewart wanted to change that.
“I’ve always tried to be who I needed when I was younger and when I was at DBHS, I needed to see representation,” Stewart said. “I needed to see people that looked like me, so that way I could see myself in them. So after graduating in 2018, I grew into who I was as a Black man, and talking to [Dr. Janice Marsili], we knew it was our responsibility to provide that inspiration to the students.”
Marsili, Stewart’s former teacher at DBHS and a Montclair State alumna, aided Stewart in setting up the assembly and she is thrilled with the outcome.
“This was a monumental achievement on the part of [Stewart], who helped us organize the entire event,” Marsili said. “It was also noteworthy because nothing like this has ever taken place in Kenilworth. [Those involved] provided much-needed visibility to our students of color and broadened the awareness of our entire school community.”
The assembly consisted of presentations from student representatives from several Montclair State student organizations like The Brotherhood La Hermandad and the Montclair State chapter of the NAACP, as well performances from the Montclair State Voices of Unity Choir and Complexions Dance Troupe. There was even a saxophone solo performance.
Following the assembly was a reception for the DBHS students to ask a few of the Montclair State students some questions, which eventually led to a discussion between both parties.
DBHS is a predominantly white school, according to Marsili. There is a small group of students of color who attend as a part of the Union County Choice Program, but most of these students are from other towns.
Stewart felt the students benefited from and enjoyed the assembly and the discussion that followed.
“I read that the highest human act is to inspire, and our intention was to do just that,” Stewart said. “The students left extremely excited and inspired.”
DBHS students weren’t the only ones who enjoyed the presentation. The faculty did as well, something Marsili was especially proud of.
“Several of our staff members asked me if the program presented to us by the students and alumni of Montclair State University was something available to all New Jersey school districts,” Marsili said. “I told them it was not, but that I certainly could see that as a possibility. As a proud alumnus, I would love to see the talent and insights of our Montclair State students used to inspire as many New Jersey students as possible.”
Stewart was just proud to spread awareness of his heritage and to celebrate Black History Month in such a colossal way.
“There is no history without Black history,” Stewart said. “Sometimes when we hear the word history, we think old and ancient, and we forget that history can be made every single day. I reminded everyone when we arrived on the bus that this is the first-ever Black History Month assembly and that we are in fact making history.”