WEST ORANGE, NJ — The West Orange African Heritage Organization held its annual Black History Month program on Wednesday, Feb. 23. With the 2022 theme of “Recognizing Black Fraternities,” the event was headlined by Essex County acting Prosecutor Theodore N. Stephens II, Hudson Community College professor Anthony Clark, attorney William Oliver and J. Roberts Associates CEO Jerry Roberts, all of whom have been dedicated members of black fraternities.
Kathy Lisenco and Brent Scott moderated the forum, peppering guest panelists with a wide range of questions regarding black fraternity culture, pledging, membership, community involvement, youth mentoring and post-college professional networking. Each panelist described the importance of mentoring, expectations to excel academically and the strong bonds of brotherhood that have lasted each of them for a lifetime.
Audience questions ran the gamut, with some asking for the names of famous or noted fraternity members to questions about hazing. Scott asked each panelist to comment on the film “School Daze,” directed by Spike Lee, and if his portrayal of black fraternity life was accurate. Each panelist gave “School Daze” high marks while emphasizing that the film was not 100-percent accurate.
Roberts, a graduate of Morehouse College, where the film was set, said, “I give ‘School Daze’ 3.5 stars, but I must note, Spike was not a member of a fraternity at Morehouse.”
Panelists also fielded questions on integration of fraternities and mixed race/ethnic pledges. All of the panelists stated that their fraternities were integrated during their years in college. Former West Orange Councilman Joe Krakoviak, a virtual audience participant, noted that his fraternity was also integrated.
The well-attended event ended on a humorous note, with Scott asking each of the panelists to describe the scene of their college years in fashion, music and hairstyle.
“All I can say is, I’m glad there were no cell phones everywhere,” Stephens said. “Style-wise I had an afro, wore big bell-bottoms and ‘Earth, Wind and Fire’ was the music scene.”
Photos Courtesy of Azadi Byabusha