UCNJ Celebrates Black History Month with Opening Ceremony

Cranford, NJ – Black History Month at UCNJ Union College of Union County, NJ began with a festive opening ceremony on February 2, 2024, on the Cranford Campus. The event was a celebration of Black culture and history, with the theme honoring “African Americans and the Arts.” The opening performance featured Zawadi African Dance and Drum, followed by UCNJ students, Sarah Towler singing the Black National Anthem and Joshua Kwashie reciting a poem.

UCNJ President Dr. Margaret M. McMenamin welcomed guests and attendees, which included U.S. Representative Donald Payne (NJ-10), Assemblywoman Michele Matsikoudis (LD-21), and Union County Commissioners Chairwoman Kimberly Palmieri-Mouded and Vice Chairwoman Lourdes M. Leon. They each addressed the College community and spoke about cultivating an inclusive environment for African Americans at UCNJ and beyond.

The event keynote speaker was Reverend Dr. Wanda Lundy. She serves as Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program at NYTS, board member of the Association for Doctor of Ministry Education, and has 30 years of pastoral, institutional, and academic ministry experience. She discussed the 313+ Project, which honors the 313+ enslaved and freed African ancestors buried in Elizabeth.

“At UCNJ, we are proud to celebrate our African American community. Through strategic programs such as Project Achievement, the College’s initiative to support African American student success, our goal is to cultivate an environment where students thrive and reach their full potential. For us, that means that that they not only cross the stage at graduation, but that they also transfer and or obtain a high-need and high-demand job that pays them a family-sustaining wage,” stated Dr. McMenamin.

Earlier this year, the Community College Daily featured a story on the challenges that UCNJ Black male students face along with the inspiring outcomes led by Project Achievement leaders, Candid conversations about Black male student success. In support of Project Achievement and Black History Month, the Union County College Foundation created the Suit Up campaign, which will provide graduating Project Achievement students with a brand-new suit. For more information on this campaign, visit http://secure.givelively.org/donate/union-county-college-foundation-inc/suit-up-campaign?fbclid=IwAR1X13y1JBT39Az-Gpa2DUr1y8UqLy3c4T0GmntfVA7HB-R8YDrnL4FAzWw.

UCNJ is a public, comprehensive community college that provides quality, affordable, accessible educational programs to the greater Union County region. It is the first of New Jersey’s 18 two-year colleges, serving both career-minded and transfer-oriented students since 1933. The College offers a wide variety of academic and extracurricular activities. UCNJ provides many experiential learning opportunities such as access to a Bloomberg Business Center, Innovation Center, and Student Research hub. Additionally, students at UCNJ attend one of the top 25 community colleges in the country for 2023 as designated by the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. To learn more, visit 5k.lbbn.net.

From left: Student Services Generalist Clinton Miller, Dean of Students Dr. Charnette Hockaday, Student Services Specialist Titilola Price, Chairwoman of the Union County Commissioners Kimberly Palmieri-Mouded, Congressman Donald Payne (NJ-10), Vice-Chairwoman of the Union County Commissioners Lourdes Leon, Keynote Speaker Dr. Wanda Lundy, UCNJ President Dr. Margaret M. McMenamin, UCNJ student Sarah Towler, Vice President of Student Development Dr. Demond Hargrove.