Dan Stamm

Broadway Star Talks Use of N-Word at Musical at South Jersey High School

Cherry Hill East curriculum tailored around racial issues amid controversy over 'Ragtime'

A South Jersey high school used the use of a racial slur in its upcoming musical as an opportunity for the school to educate students.

Cherry Hill East welcomed Brian Stokes Mitchell, an original Ragtime cast member, to the school Friday afternoon to discuss the controversial musical about race relations set at the turn of the 20th Century.

The N-word is used numerous times during the musical and in some cases isn’t used in productions. Cherry Hill East, however, decided to keep the word in with hopes of creating a conversation about race.

In January, Cherry Hill Superintendent Joseph Meloche wrote a letter explaining the school's decision to perform Ragtime as written.

"These are tumultuous, difficult times. We believe that while these difficult times provide challenges in our educational community, they also provide an opportunity and an obligation to educate," Meloche wrote. "We believe we can educate using difficult subject matter presented in a safe, sensitive way."

The school put together curriculum dealing with racial issues and the use of the N-word.

"We will make it abundantly clear that we loathe the N-word, that we despise this most vile of words in our language," Meloche wrote. "Loathing of the N-word was a theme reiterated by Mitchell during his visit to Cherry Hill East Friday – one week before Ragtime debuts.

"It should be an ugly word, it is an ugly word, it's not a word to use, it's not appropriate to use the word and that's again the point of Ragtime... it's meant to have that effect," Mitchell said.

"If people are not thinking it's an ugly word, those are the people I'm concerned with," Mitchell told students.

Ragtime runs from March 10 to March 19 at Cherry Hill East. [[238427591, C]]

Contact Us