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Gertrude Kehleay, housing administrator at The Wesleyan, thanks actor Lorraine Stone, who appeared as Harriet Tubman. (Stephanie Rahn)

[Press release from United Methodist Communities]

United Methodist Communities (UMC) at The Wesleyan celebrates Black History month annually — 2020 was no exception. Lorraine Stone reenacted the life of a remarkable cook, nurse, slave, political activist, suffragette, armed scout, liberator, abolitionist, spy, founder of a retirement home, and devout Methodist. That extraordinarily courageous, five-foot-tall, historical legend is Harriet Tubman.

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Pictured above left to right at Red Bank Regional’s Black History Month celebration are event emcee senior Corey Van Huff, Multi-cultural Club co-advisor Odilia Lligui, keynote speaker Lynese Rawlins, RBR Principal Risa Clay, and Multicultural Club co-advisor Karina Tedeschi. Below, RBR Dance majors presented their own original choregoraphy during the program.

Press release from Red Bank Regional High School

“Education is the key to life,” Lynese Rawlins told her audience at Red Bank Regional High School, as she addressed the student body during the school’s Black History Month observance on February 2.

A college student who recently graduated early from Montclair State University, and who plans to attend law school in the fall, the Class of 2013 RBR grad returned to her alma mater as keynote speaker for the special event.

A high-achieving student at RBR as president of her senior class, captain of the cheer-leading squad and recipient of the NJ Governor’s award in 2013, Lynese serves as a as a local role model and example of how hard work and determination breeds success.

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Jazmin GrahamThe Red Bank Regional VPA orchestra accompanied Jazmin Graham as she sang the Nora Jones ballad “Don’t Know Why,” during the annual Black History Month program at the school.

Press release from Red Bank Regional High School

Every February, Red Bank Regional High School celebrates Black History Month with a heartwarming program for its student body. Sponsored by the school’s Multi-cultural Club and History Club, the event spotlights the talents of RBR Visual and Performing Arts Academy students in highlighting the timeless contributions of African Americans to American society.

At the 2016 event held last week in the RBR auditorium, Principal Risa Clay greeted her students by explaining the reason we celebrate this month, stating that “it is imperative that Americans learn the complete history of the United States. All students should study and celebrate the history of all people. It is by knowing and learning about others that we continue to grow and learn from each another and better understand each other.”

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Copyright 2015 Natasha Esguerra Photography | www.natashaesguerra.comRed Bank Regional senior Morgan Brunson (holding certificate) was among the New Jersey high school students honored by Princeton University, at the 2015 Princeton Prize in Race Relations ceremony on April 15. (Photo by Natasha Esguerra)

Press release from Red Bank Regional High School

Each year, Princeton University recognizes New Jersey high school students whose efforts have had a significant, positive effect on race relations in their schools or communities — and at the 2015 Princeton Prize In Race Relations Ceremony and Reception, a Red Bank Regional High School senior was among the Central/Southern NJ Region students so honored.

At the April 15 ceremony on the porch of Princeton’s John Maclean House, Red Bank resident Morgan Brunson earned a certificate of achievement for organizing, hosting and performing in a black history month dance assembly. In addition to her commendation, Morgan was also asked to attend the national Princeton Prize Symposium in Race Relations, held at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Sociology on April 25th.

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P1230351In his keynote address during Red Bank Regional’s Black History Month observance, Red Bank Middle School Vice Principal Julius Clark advised students that their success is of their own making — and not to let society’s stereotypes define them or be an excuse for failure.

Press release from Red Bank Regional High School

The diversity and talents of the Red Bank Regional High School student body were on full display during the annual celebratory assembly for Black History Month. Students from various groups within the school contributed their time and skills to enlighten their peers on the importance of celebrating Black History.

Principal Risa Clay explained the origins of Black History Month, an observance initiated by Harvard historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson during the month of February — the birthday month of both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

“(Dr. Woodson’s) initial goal was to honor these two great leaders,” said Principal Clay. “His other goal was to infuse African American history into American history so that all Americans would learn the complete history of the United States.”

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17andunarmedGuest artists from the Asbury Park Technical Academy of Dance  performed a program on Black History at Red Bank Regional High School, including a powerful piece inspired by the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida.

Press release from Red Bank Regional High School 

In commemoration of February’s Black History Month observance, Red Bank Regional High School recently invited guest performers from the Asbury Park Technical Academy of Dance (APTAD) to give a presentation in the school auditorium. Morgan Brunson, a junior at RBR and a member of the dance academy, introduced the APTAD and its founder Michelle Burrell, who told the audience, “It is important to know that what we do today becomes tomorrow’s Black History.”

A professionally trained ballerina turned dance educator, Burrell founded the APTAD to bring the dream of dance to many students in the Asbury Park area, who may otherwise not have had the opportunity. She created and narrated the powerful program, which through a combination of storytelling, narration and dance choreographed to historic events and spiritual songs, illustrated the history of African Americans.

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On Thursday, February 20, Red Bank Regional High School celebrates Black History Month with the return of inspirational alumnus Ronald Dukes, bringing a message of hope and motivation to students in two separate assemblies (8:43 am and 9:56 am) inside the RBR auditorium.

African American history will also be celebrated with student performances in music, dance, prose and poetry, along with other planned programming.

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The cast and set of AUGUST WILSON’S TWO TRAINS RUNNING, now onstage at Two River Theater. Below, actor Chuck Cooper. (Photos by Michal Daniel)


In an interview with redbankgreen last year, stage/screen actor and director  Ruben Santiago-Hudson told us, “Being involved with the work of August Wilson changes people. People of all colors, all religions, all backgrounds… he brings them into an arena and sends them out changed.”

At the time, the specialist in all things Wilson – a Tony winner for his performance in 1995’s Seven Guitars) –  was at Red Bank’s Two River Theater to oversee rehearsals for a new production of August Wilson’s Jitney. That acclaimed and extended run found Santiago-Hudson assembling a top-notch cast highlighted by fellow Tony winner Chuck Cooper – who also co-starred in Two River Theater Company’s musical premiere In This House – along with Anthony Chisholm, Harvy Blanks, Roslyn Ruff and James A. Williams.

All of these Wilson veterans are back on the Two River boards this month, as TRTC returns to Pittsburgh’s Hill District for a major new production of August Wilson’s Two Trains Running.

Set amid the social upheaval and forced “urban renewal” of the late 1960s — and playing out in a shabby diner set-designed by Michael Carnahan — Two Trains unfolds as eatery owner Memphis (Cooper) ponders the prospect of the city buying him out of his fast-fading business, home to a gallery of vivid local characters, and workplace of the embittered and elusive object of desire named Risa (Ruff).

Into this dreary tableau come a couple of characters portrayed by actors  making their Two River debuts. Owiso Odera, who worked with the director in a San Francisco staging of Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean, plays Sterling, a young ex-convict with an optimistic set of dreams, if not the dollars to fulfill them, and John Earl Jelks, who was Tony nominated for playing an older version of that same Sterling in Wilson’s Radio Golf, appears as the slick numbers runner named Wolf.

The Drama Desk at redbankgreen got delayed a bit by Two Trains Crossing at station stop Little Silver, but managed to pull into Red Bank for a whistle-stop interview with Owiso Odera. Mind the closing doors…

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jonelle4Toni Graham, a teacher at Red Bank Middle School, comforts student Kadajyah Smith as she chokes up during a reading for Jonelle Melton, who was killed in September. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)


Just walking into the Red Bank Middle School auditorium Friday night, you could learn a lot about Jonelle Melton. She had a great big smile, loved butterflies, her favorite color was purple and, perhaps above all else, she touched a lot of lives.

And this you could figure out before anybody said a word.

As students, teachers, friends and family entered the middle school for a memorial to Melton, who was killed in September, they were greeted by a placard with butterflies bordering a picture of Melton — the same picture that was screened onto T-shirts that teachers and students inside the auditorium wore.

Those who didn’t wear the shirts chose to wear a purple band, Melton’s favorite color, on their left sleeve.

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