The Black Excellence of Eastern

       Black History Month; a month of remembrance, honor, and justice for the Black community. In honoring the past we must also represent the present, and in this time the Voyager has chosen to represent the Black excellence of Eastern; the students. Music, the arts, theater, sports, academics, and even community service is a great way to excel in life all while serving the community and being a great student here at Eastern. So let’s start with what Eastern wouldn’t be without; sports. 

    To represent the Black players within our own community who would be better than Eastern’s Silas Davis. His position in football is linebacker and running back while running track in the spring. He started playing football at the age of six because his dad grew up playing, so he saw a future for all of his sons playing as well. Silas’ older brother, Amiel Davis, plays football and is currently at Penn State and is one of Silas’ biggest role models. He wants to follow in his brother’s footsteps so Silas has done the same by applying to Penn State and has officially been accepted! Along with being accepted into University already, Silas has won the First Team All Conference LineBacker Award, along with the Odin Scholarship this year for showing adversity and never giving up, and on top of that a five hundred dollar scholarship. It’s clear to see that everything Silas has achieved in his successes and we can’t wait to see where that takes him!

     Johnay Stilley is a senior who runs track here at Eastern running the 100 Hurdles and 55 hurdles. She started showing an interest in the sport during middle school but began taking it seriously just last year. She stated that because of the isolation from covid she found herself very distant from life and wanted something to keep her going, and that’s where track came into mind. Something that continues to motivate Johnay would be to break her running times and get accepted into her dream school, University of Maryland. Because Johnay is such an amazing runner, she has won an Olympic award, an MVP award, and is pronounced as the top hurdler in the state of New Jersey. And to top that off, she’s going to nationals in March! Because of track, Johnay feels as if she has become a better and happier person. It has also brought on a lot of confidence and taught her to always be on her A-game. And as a Black woman, she feels as if being a great runner just proves that Black people can do anything they put their minds to. Even when coming from a not so great background, she can still rise above darkness. If Johnay has learned anything from running track it would be that, “winners make adjustments, losers make excuses.” 

     The next sport to be discussed is cheer in the Black community. Olivia Capers, a senior at Eastern, cheers at an All Star Competitive cheer group. She started her journey at age five being inspired by her mom who was a cheer coach. Her mother along with God are her number one supporters and Olivia said she wouldn’t be where she is now without them. Her mom told her “when one door closes, another one opens”. And those words have always been important to Olivia especially during tough challenges, and for Olivia, racial challenges was one of them. Olivia has always felt like the Black girl who stood out on the team, and has suffered from some instances where she has felt like prejudices were made against her. However, a motivation to keep her going is to place top three at the cheerleading worlds ESPN in Disney World! And as long as Olivia keeps putting her best foot forward, she will achieve her goals!

     To move onto the authors of Eastern, the Voyager’s Co-editor in chief, Mahawa Bangoura. Mahawa wrote her first story in first grade but storytelling is how she got into writing. Since Mahawa is from Guinea, her mom used to tell her stories from American culture helping her to assimilate into society. Because of this exposure to reading in her life, Mahawa found herself wanting to create stories of her own, and eventually that would lead her to publishing her first book! Writing, for Mahawa, gives her a voice that a lot of people don’t have, and allows her to separate herself from others as well. “When you see my writing you know it’s me”, Mahawa stated during the interview. Authors that inspired her to be great would include Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, and Jason Reynolds. She finds that even though not everyone enjoys writing, it comes fairly easy to her, and that’s why Mahawa plans to have a career in law and become a speech writer! After graduation, Mahawa hopes to attend her top choice; Howard University majoring in political science. It’s evident to see that Mahawa will be a future inspiration to the youth of the Black community!

     Our next writer, who is also a staff reporter for the Voyager; Madison Jolley. Madison first started journalism in her freshman year when she was at Cherry Hill East but became involved when transferring to Eastern and joined Eastern’s Voyager. She always had a liking to the subject and her love for it formed with her grandmother when the two of them would discuss current events. During her time as a journalist there have been some challenges that Madison had to endure but always managed to rise above. For example, her first year with The Voyager  she had written an article about the protest at the Met Gala. It was originally supposed to end up being in the first edition of the newspaper that year but it wasn’t released until the second edition. Although this may have saddened Madison she had to remember what was important to her, becoming a broadcast journalist. Because of this incident Madison has learned that she can use her voice for better causes, uplift others, and that getting a no is okay. Not only do people in our everyday lives have an effect on us but people that are in the public eye do as well. People like Tamron Hall, Joy Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Simone Sanders, and many more powerful women have inspired Madison to be the very best she can be. Being a Black woman and a journalist has pushed her to do even more for the cause to see more faces like hers on the tv screen and in broadcast journalism! And if she could give advice to a newcomer it would be don’t let others change you or the way you write!

      King Meulens is a senior here at Eastern who excels in the subject of art. Art has always been an outlet for King even though there have been people who have told him it wasn’t the best idea for a future career. Before, he listened to what others had to say about art and their fears would reflect onto his craft. But in the previous year, he has learned that he has to put what he loves first. Art for King is about finding who you are, sticking to your values, and ultimately clinging to your inner child. King has always been an artist, but recently he began to take himself seriously, realizing the gift he has. While COVID became a global crisis in 2020, it created an environment of growth for King. “Covid was very instrumental, in that it held a lot of self reflection”. To continue to do well in art, King had someone to always help push him to be great, his mom. King’s mom would be his ultimate role model and the one person in his life to truly inspire him to be the best! He strives to be as ambitious as his mother and is grateful that she’s blessed him with his passion. King wants to create the ultimate way to seal his legacy not only for him, but for those who may impact him down the line. For the next part of his life after graduation, King hopes to attend Howard university for art!

       Hair in the Black community is a form of expression and beauty, pushing us closer to our cultural and ancestral roots and Aniyah Wilson has decided to take on the path of hair styling. Aniyah started her journey in hair at thirteen. She mostly works with clients of color because she feels it connects them and provides a level of comfort between her, her clients, and her mentors. Seeing both of her parents as hair stylists, it inspired her to do the same. “I like to think it’s in my blood”, Aniyah stated. When she first started out she viewed it as a simple way to make money but slowly that turned into passion. Aniyah would say that she gets her hard working characteristic from her mom, Rae Model. A motivation for Aniyah would be graduating high school and getting into cosmetology school! Aniyah believes that not only does she make her clients look beautiful but she provides them with a sense of confidence. Aniyah would say to someone just starting out would be to be open minded and that practice makes perfect! So if you want that ethereal beauty and charming confidence, Aniyah is the woman to do it!

      As there are arts such as drawing and beauty, another form of art is one that everyone loves, music. And here at Eastern the most well known music artist would be Makko Red otherwise known as Jesse Ola. Starting at age four when he began to play piano, he found that he loved music, so in middle school he began writing his own. For Jesse, writing music is a form of escapism and when he does so he feels as if he’s in his own world, like he can create his own vibe. Because both of his parents have musical backgrounds, Jesse stated, “I like to think I get most of my talents from both of them.” Along with being inspired by his parents, Makko looks up to The Weeknd and Kid Cudi as musical role models that allow him to find his own voice in music. Makko just recently in December, received an award for the Most Improved Artist of the Year and has a new single coming out February 24th! After graduating from Eastern, Jesse plans to move out of New Jersey and live in Atlanta or New York to continue with his music career!

       Delize Patterson is a senior here at Eastern who puts her grades and her community first. Along with dedicating her time to community service, Delize is one of the many students at our school who is a part of the honors society! Some challenges she has struggled with are people not expecting her to even be in these AP classes and generalizing her. As her good friend stated during the interview, “An unconscious bias was used against her in a predominantly white space”. While this stereotype was pushed onto Delize, she stands at having five APs. To keep motivation after hearing comments like this Delize relies on not only herself but her parents. And speaking of her parents, the reason she started community service was because of her mother. Her mom was in charge of events, and was president of a community service group, so she has always been a part of it and eventually it grew on her. Recently for MLK day, she went to middle schools and five other different high schools in Camden to help out. Being a Black woman doing this she feels that she gets to give back to the community and be an inspiration for others. A lesson that she has learned would be to always advocate for yourself, when doing so, you’ll ultimately achieve your goals!

      And to finish off our Black Excellence journey, we should end with Eva Littrean. Eva is a senior here at Eastern and an animal technician! Eva first started showing interest in animals in first grade but she recently started working with them in October. She wanted to help animals because growing up she was constantly around them and unfortunately has seen a lot of sick animals in her life. Eva feels that as a Black woman she’s making a big impact because she sees that there aren’t many Black people in Veterinarian careers. Eva said that not only working with animals helps others but it also helps herself, she finds that working with animals helps her with her anxiety. After graduating from Eastern, Eva plans to attend a four year college studying biology and eventually going to Vet school! And a lesson Eva has learned is that animals have their own comfort zone and also deal with mental health, so they handle things differently than humans. So it’s safe to say Eva is making history in the animal medical field!

     Eastern is full of Black excellence and with these students, it was just the tip of the iceberg in discovering the many talents within our school! The Voyager has been honored in representing great students within our school and our community. We are very excited to see the impact that these Black students will have in the future and the inspiration that they will be to the youth of the Black community.