Comedian Josh Pray, who created a video that was shown by a Renaissance Middle School principal at a Montclair Schools convocation Wednesday and later deemed offensive by Montclair Schools Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Ponds and other staff members, has released a response video entitled “Dear Montclair Schools.”
Superintendent Ponds gave a statement Wednesday evening at a virtual Montclair Board of Education meeting, describing a video.
“During today’s welcome back convocation to staff, a completely inappropriate and unacceptable video was broadcast (that) was inconsistent with our schools’ strong values and ideals regarding diversity,” Ponds said.
Neither Ponds nor any other staff have publicly confirmed the video source, but following the statement made by the Superintendent, videos by Pray about remote schooling have been circulating on social media as being the video shown at the convocation.
Pray, in his response video, talks about his loud, comedic style and said he was surprised that “according to some people, I’m an angry Black man.”
Pray also released this statement:
In response to the recent events in the Montclair Public School System that have been tied to my video:
We (my team, fans, and supporters) have been blindsided by the recent news that my video was shown and a principal was removed from his position due to its ‘offensive’ nature. There have been some faults during these events, but we do not believe showing my video was one of them.
I promised a statement on this issue when my supporters messaged, in shock, that my name was mentioned in such a way. We intentionally waited to find out more details and hopefully gain clarity after speaking to both sides.
Although I have spoken with the principal and his legal team, no one from the Montclair Public School System has reached out to me to inquire about the intent of the specific video or my mission with my works in general. This is despite having access to my team and manager’s email and cellphone number on all of my public platforms. Instead, the superintendent, the interim principal, and other board members have made assertions that cover a wide range of uninformed and reproachful personal opinions.
These fault-finding attitudes include, but are not limited to, claims that I said disparaging things about my own children, I am angry black man, and the video as a whole was offensive and racist. I have so many questions, but my main question is this: how is my video of thanking and appreciating teachers with heartfelt fervor ‘racist’ and ‘offensive’?
In a time where it feels like all we have are heated and rash decisions, the Montclair Public School System has made yet another heated and rash decision based on the color of my skin. I am completely bewildered as to why my race was brought into this conversation.
As everyone has now been able to affirm, I do in fact have children in the school system. I never thought I would have to bear witness to a group of people who questioned my love for them, but yes, I love my children. I wake up every day with the thought of protecting and adoring them. We talk about and watch most of my videos together. They are a part of everything I do and are proud of me, as I am of them.
I also feel love and respect for the teachers who teach my children. I have been given the gift of witnessing educators transition to at-home learning, deal with these tumultuous times, and then find their footing back in the classroom and online. No matter where a teacher is teaching from, I want them to know they are appreciated. My supporters have asked me if I will stop making videos or making videos about teachers. The answer is a very solid, “No.” Did educators give up on teaching? The answer again is solid and true, “No.” Our answers align because our values align.
I have many, many videos about teachers. These all take a comedic view of the situations we are embroiled in because I am a comedian. When I talk about cars, teachers, ballet dancers, do movie reviews, and do Tik Tok dances as a father of two, remember I am a comedian. Teachers, principals, and friends and family of the aforementioned send me messages with ideas about the next video and even request to have some made to share in schools or privately. I will continue to do this for you until I have no breath left in me! I am not concerned about being called ‘angry’ because of the color of my skin or tone of my voice.
For those concerned about me and my mental well-being after reading these negative comments about my work: do not be. You are here, and I feel your presence. My entire team thanks you. There is so much going on in the world that I only have a favor to ask of you. Please stand up a little straighter today and spread love and peace to someone. Do the same tomorrow and forever, as will I. Perhaps if some of these very negative people had received love in the world that day, they would not have taken a well-intended video and turned it toxic.
I will continue to find levity in the world and pass that to my supporters through comedy.
I will pray for the peace for all involved in this situation.
With love and appreciation,
Comedian and Entertainer JOSH PRAY
A Montclair Schools teacher offers a response to Pray in comments.