EAST ORANGE, NJ — About 300 Cicely L. Tyson Middle/High School students who passed the 2022 state test got to enjoy popcorn, snacks, soda, and a private showing of the movie “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”
“We contacted Newark screens, co-owned by NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal and made arrangements,” said Assistant Principal Ameenah Poole. “Six school buses and 20 chaperones in all were required. When we learned that Marvel Studios put out a call to have movie attendees wear cultural attire or dress in white in honor of the late black panther actor Chadwick Boseman, we rose to the occasion. Half of our attendees were dressed in cultural attire. A lot of them painted their faces too.”
Poole said that High School English teacher Ashley Carter played a pivotal role in organizing the event. Carter was responsible for streamlining the student tracking sheet and inspiring the crowning of a king and queen.
“We should always highlight kids that are meeting the expectations of our school,” Poole said. “This was also a great opportunity to celebrate a cultural icon as a community.”
Eighth grader, Calvin Brooks, 13, said he was proud of himself for being able to participate.
“This was the first time this happened to me,” Calvin said. “I even dressed in African attire and a white tuxedo. The hat I wore was made of an African fabric. I also had an African wraparound from my left shoulder to the right side that was sewn by my mother.”
Brooks said the experience inspired him to keep working hard in the classroom.
Corrii Grayson, 13, said she had had a good time and it will inspire her to keep her grades up.
“The reason I went on the trip in the first place was because you get rewarded for doing what you’re supposed to do,” Corrii said.
Anaba Wesly, 14, enjoyed the excursion and liked that people got dressed up for it.
“I saw high school students with their faces painted,” Anaba said. “When I got home after the trip, I felt like drawing something about the movie. I drew a panther.”
Londyn Rogers, 13, wore all black to the movie.
“It felt cool to participate,” Londyn said. “I felt special, like I accomplished something. It showed me the rewards you get when you work hard and put your mind to it. It was a little bit crazy too because there were a lot of kids.”
Principal John English said the movie was a great incentive.
“Kids feel appreciated when they are rewarded for being great students,” English said.
“We will continue to plan an incentive to reward students who consistently pass the state assessment. Hopefully they will remember there is an incentive, take the test seriously, and do it with fidelity. Students learn to persevere.”