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Cassius Clay comes to Hostess House

THE GREATEST:A young Cassius Clay (Jayden Hill), left, talks with his father, Cash (Kaleb Evans), in the Marion High School Black History Club presentation of “And In This Corner: Cassius Clay” at the Hostess House on Thursday.

BY Kaitlin Gebby - kgebby@chronicle-tribune.com

The Marion High School Black History Club performed the story of how Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali for a dinner theatre at the Hostess House Thursday.

For the third year in a row, the Hostess House has invited the club to perform their annual Black History Month play for the community. The play doubles as a fundraiser for the club that provides the means for students in the club to take campus tours to historically black colleges, according to Director Bobbie Owensby.

Owensby has led the club since its founding in 1980 with a goal of not only teaching students about other cultures through news and historical literature, but also by traveling abroad to experience them first hand.

In later years, the group has traveled to U.S. colleges for campus tours to show students their potential. Some students, like MHS senior Manual Davis, have committed to schools after touring them in the group.

The annual play funds the travel and makes campus tours possible for students at MHS. This year, the Black History Club has a fundraising goal of $5,000. In the premier of “And in This Corner: Cassius Clay” in February, they raised $4,600 of their goal.

Owensby said she is hopeful that the remainder of the funds come through from advertising in their play programs. She added that coming to the Hostess House wasn’t for fundraising, but for students to provide a service to the community.

“We do provide a service by coming to the Hostess House,” Owensby said. “The students get to display their talents and folks get to see a wonderful show in a beautiful part of Marion.”

Carole Matchette, a board member at the Hostess House, said she invited the group to perform to expose a piece of history to both the students and the audience members.

“It allows kids to be involved, and they get to come see what a gem we have here in Marion,” Matchette said. “We always love to coordinate a chance for community activity.”

Owensby said the setting change was smaller, but more relaxing after their performance at the F. Ritchie Walton Performing Arts Center in front of a packed audience.

Jordan Hill, a senior at MHS, portrayed Cassius Clay in the show. He said the performance has been fun and thrilling, but it’s also taught him a great deal about himself.

“I’ve learned that I can do a lot more than I initially thought,” Hill said. “With the help of the other cast members, and watching YouTube videos of Muhammad Ali, I’ve been able to take this on and learn a lot about myself and what I can do.”