On the electrifying Friday of April 5th, a seismic ripple coursed through towns across New Jersey, igniting tremors of a 4.8 magnitude earthquake. Speculation swirled that the tremors were not of tectonic origin, but rather the collective buzz and anticipation echoing from the attendees gearing up for Asbury Park’s monumental 90’s Mega Class Reunion! Yes, you read it correctly – not just one, but a staggering ten graduating classes from the illustrious years of 1990-1999 coming together to relive the magic of their high school years.

Gathered over two unforgettable nights, around 250 former Asbury Park High School students, spanning from nearby neighborhoods to as distant as Texas, Alabama, and the DMV area, reunited to revel in their long-anticipated and deeply cherished reunion.

Asbury Park 90’s Mega Reunion Committee (L-R): Stephanie Mindingall, Tyhesia Thomas, Renada Fleming, Nakia Callands, Tammy Cooper, Zalika Foy, Gena Cagle, Shelly Sanders, Ebony Bennett Credit: gotpicz.net

Committee Co-Chairperson, Gena Cagle stated, “The Asbury Park 90’s Mega Class Reunion, was sparked by the success of the APHS 80s reunion last year. Co-Chairperson, Shelly Sanders and myself drew on past experiences of attempting to organize a class of 1992 reunion. After witnessing the vibrant 80s event, we were motivated to take action!”

Gena highlighted some significant contributions. “My cousin, Janice Peart, a committee member from the APHS Reunion 80s committee, provided invaluable advice throughout the planning process. A meeting at Shelly’s house attracted additional committee members, including: Renada Fleming, Tammy Cooper, Stephanie Mindingall, Nakia Callands, and honorary committee member, Tyhesia Thomas.”

Gena described some important creative enhancements for the event. “Tyhesia offered her creative input from her design company, TyElle Designs, and provided her Photo and 360 Booth – for free. My daughter, Zalika Foy, from Urban Misfit LLC, contributed by designing the backdrop and T-shirts for the event. Overall, our collaborative efforts aimed to provide a memorable experience for attendees, bridging the gap for classes in Asbury Park that previously hadn’t organized reunions.”

The first APHS 90s Reunion event took place at the Jumping Brook Country Club where positive vibrations, smiles, laughter, and cameras clicking at every angle of the room engulfed the entire building. A beautiful and bold photo memorial backdrop showcased nearly 90 faces of classmates who had passed away; it melted the hearts of all who attended.

Gone, but not forgotten – Nearly 90 photographs on display honor the memory of departed alumni Credit: BSB Fotography

In a heartfelt gesture of gratitude, the spotlight shone brightly on beloved educators at the Asbury Park 90s Mega Class Reunion. Among those honored were the revered Ms. Wanda Smith, the nurturing Mrs. Minnie Prince, the inspiring Mr. Leroy Hayes, the dedicated Mr. Gavin McGrath, and the influential Mr. Milton Parker. These pillars of wisdom and guidance were celebrated for their unwavering dedication and profound impact on the lives of countless students throughout the years.

Honored APSD Educators, Mr. McGrath and Mrs. Prince Credit: gotpicz.net
Honored APSD Educators, Wanda Smith and Stacy Cooke Credit: gotpicz.net
Honored APSD Educator, Mr. Hayes and wife, Mrs. Hayes Credit: gotpicz.net

Class of 1993 APHS reunion attendee, Derrick Griggs commented, “Growing up in Asbury Park in the 80s and 90s meant we were always aware of racism, but rarely from within the heart of Asbury Park. We became our own community. When the outside world saw us as thugs — let’s be honest, the political climate shows they still see us as thugs — we were blossoming into attorneys, VPs, educators, and yes, CEO’s. I could not be more proud of the educators in Asbury Park, who taught, mentored, and cared about the generations of AP’s Youth.”

Growing up in Asbury Park in the 80s and 90s meant we were always aware of racism, but rarely from within the heart of Asbury Park. We became our own community.

Derrick Griggs

With musical blast from their 90s past, the dance floor looked like the iconic painting ‘The Sugar Shack’ by Ernie Barnes from the credits of the TV show, Good Times! If you know, you know as the saying goes! The highlight of the evening came with the unexpected appearance of iconic hip-hop recording artists, Grand Puba and Lord Jamal from the renowned hip-hop group Brand Nubian. The crowd erupted with cheers as they passionately recited along with the Emcees, creating an electric atmosphere that was nothing short of phenomenal.

(L-R): Grand Puba and Lord Jamar, members of renowned Hip Hop group Brand Nubian Credit: gotpicz.net

The second night, or what many in attendance called ‘Round 2’, was held in the Asbury Park High School gymnasium with MCee Kelly “Keljabee” Weedon rock’n the mic, DJ Ben Grimm and “Total Xperience Ent., on the one and twos! It appeared as if someone had opened a time capsule that was buried over 30 years ago. From gold grills, combat boots, sports team jerseys, and denim overalls to dookie sized gold chains, bamboo earrings, army fatigues, Timbs, and fitted caps to the front or back. From tracksuits, poetic justice, braids, friends dressed as twins, flipped up sunglasses, iced out hoops, and Coogi sweaters to beepers, three finger rings, puffy vest, Aerobic Reeboks in all different flavors, and graffiti-sprayed apparel!

Carmen Lipford, Indira Jagoo, Monique Wilson, Sammy Lee Perez Credit: gotpicz.net
Kizzie Osbourne Credit: BSB Fotography
(L-R): Shannon Davis, John Bennett, Claudia Jean-Baptiste, (Back): Garrett Cotton Credit: gotpicz.net

Hips were shaking, and some even complained their knees were aching! That’s how much fun they had again on the dance floor. To top it all off, another special treat the committee had planned for their classmates was a comedy show featuring local rising star, stand-up comedian, Natasha Face!

In the age of technology and social media, the spirit of the #APHS90sMegaClassReunion lives on. For a week now, former classmates have continued to share their memories and photos, keeping the camaraderie alive across all classes. As the virtual reunions persist, so too does the enduring bond forged at the reunion, uniting classmates both near and far in the timeless spirit of nostalgia.

Brother Wade Muhammad and Brother John Muhammad Credit: BSB Fotography
Tyh Prince and Latecia Latimore Credit: BSB Fotography

This story doesn’t end here. After celebrating the recent success of the Asbury Park 90s Mega Class Reunion, it’s important to reflect on the historical challenges faced by the town and the students who persevered through adversity.

Three decades ago, an article by Asbury Park Press reporter Nancy Shields (presented below), depicted a grim portrayal of the city’s challenges with systemic racism, the phenomenon of “white flight,” and a failing school system. Not only throughout these years, but up until current times, Asbury Park has been grappling with severe issues of drugs, violence, housing, low wage employment, mental and physical disparities, political and many other social injustices, all of which had a major negative impact on the African American community, who remained in the town.

Despite these daunting challenges, the resilience of Asbury Park High School graduates shines through. Within the ten graduation classes of the 90s, there are amazing parents/grandparents, aunts, and uncles who have become engineers, CEOs, influential artists, educators, social workers, professors, lawyers, licensed cosmetologists, authors, entrepreneurial business owners, non profit founders, law enforcement officers, firefighters, corporate leaders, public/motivation speakers, photographers, coaches, hardworking productive citizens, nurses, professional performers, entertainers, federal and state government employees, community organizers, and community activists, and the list goes on.

Their journey is a testament to the African proverb, “It takes a whole village to raise a child,” underscoring the collective support and determination that propelled them forward, despite the adversities they faced growing up in Asbury Park.

Meet the Graduates – 1990 thru 1998

Read the article ‘White flight’ shaped city schools by Nancy Shields:

BiBiSaran Bennett, a dedicated educator, advocate, skilled photographer and writer, joins the Asbury Park Reporter as a columnist and photographer. With a background in psychology, special education, media design, and event production, she brings creativity, compassion, and a keen eye for storytelling to her reporting. As the owner of BSB Fotography, founder of ZADF and a committed community leader, she embodies a passion for uplifting her hometown of Asbury Park and illuminating the stories that matter most.

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