On Wednesday, September 7, Newark Academy kicked off its historic 250th school year with its traditional Convocation ceremony featuring a keynote address by Dr. Salamishah Tillet ’92, a Pulitzer Prize winner, scholar, writer and activist.

During her keynote speech, Dr. Tillet encouraged Newark Academy students to embrace life’s messiness and to be excited about what is yet to be discovered.

“You have more access to information than any generation before you, which means that you understand how the past lives on today and also how we might learn from it to be kinder to each other, to look out for one another and to actually change the inequalities that we’ve inherited that benefit some of us while still hurting many of us today,” Dr. Tillet said. 

Dr. Salamishah Tillet has been a contributing critic at large for The New York Times since 2015. She writes about popular culture, politics, gender, sexuality and race. She is also the co-host and co-producer of the Because of Anita podcast with Cindi Leive of The Meteor. Currently, she is the Henry Rutgers Professor of Creative Writing and African American and African Studies and the Director of Express Newark, a center for socially engaged art and design at Rutgers University-Newark. With her sister, Scheherazade Tillet, who is a Newark Academy graduate from the Class of 1996, she founded A Long Walk Home, an arts organization that empowers young people to end violence against girls and women.

As she concluded her remarks, Dr. Tillet looked 250 years into the future with hope that another generation of Newark Academy students will look back on this generation with pride. Newark Academy Head of School Donald M. Austin also advised students to leave their mark on the school and at the world at large.

“An advantage of being part of a venerable institution like Newark Academy is that we all benefit from the experience of those who have come before us,” said Mr. Austin in his welcoming remarks. “Simply knowing that thousands of students have walked these halls before you, faced similar challenges, and gone on to live lives of meaning and purpose should give you the confidence to know that you, too, will thrive and succeed, even if there are setbacks along the way.”

Convocation is a Newark Academy tradition that brings together students, faculty, staff and representatives from the school’s Alumni Board of Governors to celebrate the start of each academic year and to recognize long-serving faculty and staff. This year, Newark Academy debuted a new alma mater, “Toward the Light,” for returning students and a celebration video in honor of the school’s milestone.