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Spotlight | Jennifer Strong ’87


Jennifer graduated from Friends in 1987 and then matriculated to Hampton University where she received her BA in 1991. As the daughter of well-known jazz musician, Clifford Jordan, it was not surprising that Jennifer would follow her father’s footsteps and begin working in the music industry. After college, she started a career as a music agent. Jennifer has fond memories of her father performing at Friends when she was a student. Her mother was a visual artist. Jennifer’s parents worked hard to send her to Friends. Having attended pre-school at Jack & Jill and given the proximity of her home to the School, Friends Seminary was the logical choice and she enrolled in Grade 4.


Before coming to Friends, Jennifer attended a school in East Manhattan, where she had classmates who were African-American, native Africans and from Asia. “When I arrived at Friends, initially I felt like an outsider. Friends was a predominantly white school but very open-minded. My classmates were great.” Jennifer remembers feeling that at Friends, no one looked like she did. “When you look different, and kids are teasing you, you can’t help but assume race plays a factor.”


In her second year at Friends and first in Middle School, Larry Carter joined the School. Having someone who looked like her offered her familiar footing. “During this time I became more confident, it was also the first time I saw other students of color.” Looking back, Jennifer sees this as a pivotal moment in her life. “Having a champion or someone who understands what you are going through is very important, for me that person was Larry Carter.” Larry was close to Jennifer’s parents, which was important to her.


Harold Perry was another teacher who made an impact on Jennifer. Although she did not like science, she connected with Mr. Perry because he was also from Virginia. Jennifer recalls that he was the first atheist she ever met.


Jennifer credits John Byrne as the most influential teacher she had at Friends. Through his teaching and sharing about his own upbringing, Jennifer learned that “suffering happens all over the world, John would share stories about his visits home to Ireland.” John encouraged her writing, poetry and expanded her vocabulary. Jennifer distinctly remembers John’s famous vocabulary quizzes. “He set the bar very high for his students, and this has had a significant impact on my writing today, both personal and professional.” Music teacher Donald Bender was her advisor and she played flute in the band — “or at least tried!” Jennifer’s father insisted that she participate. Donald was someone Jennifer could confide in, and she enjoyed his class, despite her lack of musical talent.


The concept of Inner Light remains important to Jennifer, as does the importance of service to those around her, in large ways and small. Jennifer continues to volunteer at the 15th Street Meeting Shelter and with YSOP. “Sleeping on the street to experience what it was like to be homeless gave me humility. Meeting for Worship teaches you to pause and be introspective. These are things I always carry with me.”


Jennifer developed her sense of activism during her time at Friends. "I remember participating in protests, in particular I recall protesting against the apartheid regime in South Africa and advocating for companies to divest at the time alongside my classmates." Jennifer was one of the founding members of C.A.R.E. (Cultural Awareness Reaching Everyone) at Friends. "I believe Kim Barker Lee ’85 was the one who initially came up with the idea to start C.A.R.E. I also remember classmates like Marilyn Davis ’85, Dwayne Ford ’86, Rendall Howell ’85, Michele Johnson-Ashley ’84, Schuyler Allen-Kalb ’86, Jocelyn Anker ’87 and Susie Berkowitz ’87 were all members. It wasn’t just students of color, it was all inclusive."


After a long career in the music industry, Jennifer has pivoted into skincare recently, founding Orchid Skin Essentials. Starting her own company led Jennifer to study aromatherapy and learn more about essential oils. She wants her products to evoke a good feeling and elevate people’s mood. “The goal is to promote a life of simple joys. Find joy in simple moments. Working in shelters and soup kitchens throughout my life, it all begins with how we feel everyday. None of this can happen if we are filled with angst. We need to find small moments of joy, to me that is a world that ought to be.” She also plans to put together a music and arts festival in the near future. Jennifer hopes for safer streets, less conflict, large and small. She wants peace “even on the subway!” So we can all walk around peacefully. “A spirit of resolution is necessary.”

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