South Orange Middle School to Present 2nd Annual ‘My Black Is Beautiful’ Celebration


Community’s Celebration of the beauty of black culture and black history scheduled at SOPAC this Saturday, February 24.

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The following is a press release from SOMSD:

SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. – On Saturday, Feb. 24th South Orange Middle School (SOMS) students and faculty will set out to make Black History as they present “My Black Is Beautiful – A Celebration of Black History Through the Arts.”

While many Black History Month events tend to focus on the people and events of the past, Saturday’s event will be a celebration of the young people who will make Black History in the future.

“There are so many of our black and brown children who don’t think they’re beautiful, who don’t know that they’re beautiful,” said South Orange Middle School Principal Lynn Irby Hill. “I’ve made it my mission that they’re going to know. They’re going to feel it. They’re going to see it around them.”

If Irby Hill uses the word “children,” as opposed to “students,” deliberately, it may be because she is a child of the school and District she works in. She lived on Page Terrace in South Orange, attended Montrose when it was an elementary school, and is an alumna of SOMS and Columbia High School. She returned to SOMS in 2015 after working more than 25 years in Newark Public Schools where she was principal of Arts High School when she left.

To Irby Hill, there is no better way to fulfill her mission of making sure SOMS children know they are beautiful than to put them on stage at the South Orange Performing Arts Center on Saturday.

“My children are incredible,” she said, “and I want this community to know, they’re your children, too.”

The roughly 90-minute program will feature SOMS students expressing themselves through music, poetry, the spoken word, and especially dance ­– for which Irby Hill has a particular passion.

Last week, she was in the SOMS cafeteria rehearsing with members of the SOMS Principal’s Dance Troup, which she leads, finishing the choreography for one of the program’s performances. Helping her was Janyah Taylor, a SOMS paraprofessional and former Arts High School student whom Irby Hill met when she was the principal.

CLICK HERE to see the video, “Just A Minute with Lynn Irby Hill,” featuring clips from the dance rehearsal.

The program will also feature “The Young Kings,” a group of young men who participate in Assistant Principal Dr. Donovan Smalls’ Empowerment Group, who will perform a choreographed version of Daniel Beaty’s poem, “Dear Future Ancestor.”

The show will close with a special performance by The Tia Holt Experience. By day, Tia Holt works at SOMS as the Guidance Department’s secretary. But after work, Holt has made a name for herself as a talented singer who has delivered memorable performances like the one she gave at last summer’s Maplewoodstock festival.

Irby Hill was Holt’s teacher at the South 17th Street School in Newark. Neither Irby Hill or Holt are divulging many details about The Tia Holt Experience, except to say that it will be a tribute to a very special performer.

Tickets for “My Black Is Beautiful – A Celebration of Black History Through the Arts” at SOPAC on Saturday, February 24th at 4 p.m. are $15 and can be purchased in advance at SOPAC’s website. The venue seats 400, which is smaller than SOMS’ auditorium.


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