joe clark

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‘To Sir With Love’ and ‘Lean on Me’ — Black Educators That Made a Difference

Published February 21, 2022 by Maryanne
Sidney Poitier and cast of “To Sir With Love”

Yesterday my husband and I saw “To Sir With Love” on the big screen. It’s not only Black History Month, but yesterday was the late Sidney Poitier’s birthday. He died earlier this year, but had he lived, he would have been 95 on February 20, 2022. The movie was shown at the Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway, New Jersey. This is where portions of “School of Rock” were filmed. My husband and I attended many shows at this theatre throughout the years, including their outdoor concert series prior to the pandemic.

“To Sir With Love” deals with social and racial issues at an inner city school in London. Poitier plays teacher Mark Thackeray, who is waiting to hear about an engineering job he applied for while teaching tough high school students. The movie also features Lulu in the cast of students and also singing her hit, “To Sir With Love.” I won’t give away the rest of it, for those who haven’t seen it, but I will say, I didn’t not expect to get so choked up about it. It was a fantastic movie.

While watching the movie, I was reminded of another male, Black professional who worked in the school system and also handled students with tough love. Paterson, New Jersey principal, Joe Louis Clark. I was honored to write about Clark, not once, but twice in my writing career. First for The Paterson Press, and later on, after his death, I wrote a Joe Clark tribute for Grey Journal:

Joe Clark inspired the 1980s movie “Lean on Me” which you can read more about in my article.

While one film is fictional and another is based on a true story, you can’t deny the impact these films had on society. With one more week of Black History Month, it’s a great time to check out either movie–or both.

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta can be reached at:

She is the author of the following books:

“Be (Extra)Ordinary: 10 Ways to Become Your Own Hero” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback or Kindle version, visit:Be (Extra)Ordinary

“I Don’t Want to Be Like You” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback, Kindle or audio copy, go here: I Don’t Want To Be Like You

Her fiction book “Love Cats” second printing is now available, under the pen name Krystianna Mercury, from Pink Flamingo. You can purchase it here:

Maryanne is also available for book editing and coaching. Rates are competitive.

And for positive messages, visit Be YOUnique, the Anti-Bullying You Tube Channel:

East Side High School, Paterson, New Jersey

Published May 21, 2013 by Maryanne

SAM_0869Photo by Me

Today was a thrill because I got to cover a story (to be posted at a future date) at East Side High School.

East Side High School is the famous high school that Principal Joe Clark taught at.

Who is Joe Clark, you may ask? Joe Clark is the person the 1989 film “Lean on Me” was based on. East Side High School was considered the toughest school in the 1980s and principal Joe Clark walked around with a baseball bat in his hand.

Last year I interviewed a few of the students who were at East Side while Joe Clark was there. You can read my article from April, 2012 here and hear how Joe Clark influenced students:

On the way over there I had to drive on the famous Market Street.

Market Street is famous (in my mind, at least) because that is where I, as a little girl in the 1960s, dropped my Bugs Bunny doll — in the middle of the street amongst traffic.

My grandmother ran into the street and stopped a bus so I could pick up my Bugs Bunny doll!

A few years ago, I found a similar Bugs Bunny doll in an antique shop and my husband got it for me. Who knows, it could be the same doll, right? I always wondered where that doll went! We moved a lot, so I’m sure it got lost along the way and now I have it again. (Proof that if something comes back to you — it’s yours!)

SAM_0871Also, love this old Barney’s furniture building, so I took a shot of it.