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 Monday, Feb. 25, and Wednesday, Feb. 27,  Union County College will be hosting a series of events in observance of Black History Month, including a lecture by Dr. Clement Price, participation in the National African American Read-In, and ending with a concert by the Newark Boys Chorus and the North Jersey Philharmonic Glee Club.

The celebration will begin on Monday with the college’s participation in the 24th Annual African American Read-In which will be held at 9:30 a.m. in the Theater in the Lessner Building at the Elizabeth campus. Members of the college community, including students, faculty, and staff will read literature reflective of the theme, “Voices from America’s Black Past: Standing on Strong Shoulders.”

The celebration will continue on Wednesday with the Annual Douglass/Lincoln lecture which will be held at 10:00 a.m. in the Roy Smith Theater at the College’s Cranford campus. Dr. Clement Price will present, “Once, Twice, Three Times a Lady: Dolores Collins Benjamin, the North Jersey Philharmonic Glee Club and the African American Musical Tradition.”

Clement Alexander Price is Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor of History, Rutgers University-Newark Campus, and Director of the Rutgers Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience. Dr. Price is the foremost authority on the black New Jersey past by virtue of his Freedom Not Far Distant: A Documentary History of Afro-Americans in New Jersey (1980), Many Voices, Many Opportunities: Cultural Pluralism and American Arts Policy (1994) and numerous other scholarly works.

He has been the recipient of many awards for academic and community service, including: The New Jersey Nets Basketball Black History Month award at the Prudential Arena in Newark, New Jersey, February, 2011 and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Award from Essex County in February, 2010. In 2006, he was inducted into the Rutgers University Hall of Distinguished Alumni.

Dr. Price is a trustee of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, chairman of the Save Ellis Island Foundation, a member of the Scholarly Advisory Committee to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution, and a Trustee of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He chaired the New Jersey State Council on the Arts from 1980 to 1983 and he holds honorary degrees from William Paterson University and Drew University. Dr. Price was agency lead for the National Endowment for the Humanities on President Obama’s transition team. He is also on the advisory council for the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Dr. Price was appointed by President Barack Obama in July 2011 to serve as vice chair of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. He is also a member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Board of Trustees.

Along with the late Giles R. Wright, he is the 1981 co-founder and co-organizer of the Marion Thompson Wright Lecture Series, one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious conferences in observance of Black History Month in New Jersey. He is co-editor with Lonnie Bunch and Spencer Crew of the book, “Slave Culture: A Documentary Collection of the Slave Narratives from the Federal Writer’s Project, 1936-1938,” to be published by Greenwood Press in 2013.

Also on Feb. 27, and the Cranford campus, an African-American market will be held from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. in the Victor M. Richel Student Commons.

Later that evening in the Roy Smith Theater in Cranford, 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 various songs together. Featured soloists for the evening are Joyce Dee and Kevin Kane.

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. In September 1972, the school adopted the name Newark Boys Choir, which later became the Newark Boys Chorus School. The Newark Boys Chorus has performed in prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall, and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The Chorus has appeared on Good Morning America (WABC).

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 73rd 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 performed at The White House, Lincoln 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, and the Student Government Association. They are also held in cooperation with the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders. The College’s Cranford campus is located at 1033 Springfield Avenue and the Elizabeth Campus is located at 40 West Jersey Street.

For directions, go to www.ucc.edu.

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