Union County College Celebrates Black History Month

The Newark Boys Chorus and the North Jersey Philharmonic Glee Club perform together on one stage. (Photo courtesy of Union County College)

The Newark Boys Chorus and the North Jersey Philharmonic Glee Club perform together on one stage. (Photo courtesy of Union County College)

CRANFORD – On Tuesday, Feb. 28, and Wednesday, Feb. 29, in observance of Black History Month, Union County College will be hosting a series of events, including a lecture by Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad and a concert by the Newark Boys Chorus and the North Jersey Philharmonic Glee Club.

The college’s annual Douglass/Lincoln lecture will be presented at 10 a.m. in the Roy Smith Theater at the College’s Cranford campus. Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad will present, “The Challenge of Historical Literacy in the Age of Obama.”

Muhammad is the director of the Schomburg Center For Research in Black Culture and a former professor of African-American history at Indiana University. As an academic, Dr. Muhammad is at the forefront of scholarship on the enduring link between race and crime that has shaped and limited opportunities for African Americans.

The celebration will continue on Wednesday, Feb. 29, with the college’s participation in the 23rd Annual African American Read-In at 10 a.m. in the Theater in the Lessner Building at the Elizabeth campus. This year’s theme is, “Voices From America’s Black Past – Strong Shoulders On Which To Stand.” Music will be provided by Zulema Cheek. Members of the College community, including students, faculty, and staff will read literature reflective of the theme. The Read-In is sponsored nationally by The Black Caucus of National Council Teachers of English and by NCTE.

On the Cranford campus on Wednesday, Feb. 29, an African-American market will be held from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. in the Victor M. Richel Student Commons. If you are interested in having a vendor table, contact Patricia Smoot at 1-908-361-7217 or e-mail smootpatricia@ymail.com.

Later that evening, the Annual Dolores Collins Benjamin Memorial Concert will begin at 7 p.m. when the young, The Newark Boys Chorus, gathers with the veteran, North Jersey Philharmonic Glee Club, to perform songs such as “This Little Light of Mine” and “Let There Be Music”.

The Newark Boys Chorus School (NBCS) was originally the New Jersey Symphony Boys Choir in 1966. The original chorus was formed with the New Jersey Symphony who needed “angels’ voices” for the “Dance of the Snowflakes” in their production of Tchaikowsky’s “Nutcracker”. It was James R. McCarthy who undertook the task and found 66 “angels” for use in the production. On December 26, 1966, the chorus finally joined the New Jersey Symphony and the Garden State Ballet in a complete production of the “Nutcracker”. In September 1972, the school adopted the name Newark Boys Choir, which later became the Newark Boys Chorus School.

Known as Newark’s “Musical Ambassadors,” the Chorus has been heard throughout the world with a diversified repertoire that includes traditional classical music, spirituals, folk music, and jazz. The Newark Boys Chorus has performed in prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Lincoln Center, and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. The Chorus has appeared on Good Morning America (WABC), and recorded a Christmas Special with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), featuring soloists Renee Fleming and Leslie Garrett.

The North Jersey Philharmonic Glee Club was established in 1939 by the late Dolores Collins Benjamin, who is a Union County College LIFE Center alumnus. This year the Club celebrates its 72nd season. The Glee Club remains dedicated to the preservation of male choral singing tradition performing a wide variety of music, drawing much of its repertoire from African American idioms and Western European Classical music forms. The Glee Club has appeared in programs that included: Harry Belafonte, Smokey Robinson, Ben Vereen, and Savion Glover. They have also recently performed at The White House, Lincoln Center, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, and the Smithsonian Institution. The special combination of the older Glee Club and younger Boys Chorus together make for a unique evening of musical enjoyment.

These events are sponsored by the College’s Economics/Government/History Department and English Department, the Black Student Heritage Organization, the Student Government Association, the MacKay Library, and the Institute for Intensive English. The College’s Cranford campus is located at 1033 Springfield Avenue and the Elizabeth Campus is located at 40 West Jersey Street. For more information contact Dr. Lawrence Hogan at (908) 497-4235 or email hogan@ucc.edu. For directions, go to www.ucc.edu.

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