South Side / Malcom X Shabazz High School
has many successful alumni that have
made their mark at home and around the country. However, there are some that are
known of around the world. All of the successful could not be noted here, so a
short list of the worldly notable ones are listed below:

Matee Ajavon – Born May 7, 1986, as a child, Ajavon immigrated to the United States with her family from Monrovia, Liberia. Ajavon graduated from Malcolm X Shabazz. She led the Shabazz girls’ basketball team to victory in the State of New Jersey’s “Tournament of Champions” in both 2003 and 2004, the first time a school had repeated as champion.


Ajavon was named a All-American. She participated in the 2004 WBCA High School All-America Game, where she scored nine points. Ajavon graduated from Rutgers University in 2008, having majored in Africana Studies. She was a key member of the 2006–2007 Scarlet Knights women’s basketball team that reached the NCAA Championship game. Ajavon played for the USA team in the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The team won all five games, earning the Gold Medal for the event. Ajavon played primarily off the bench during her rookie WNBA season, but averaged 8.0 points per game. When the Houston Comets folded in 2008, Ajavon was selected second in the dispersal draft by the Washington Mystics. In her first season with Washington, again mainly playing as a reserve, she scored 8.0 points per game. Ajavon helped the Mystics reach the playoffs, where she played well, scoring 19 points in just 34 total minutes. During the 2008–2010 WNBA offseason, Ajavon played in the EuroLeague Women for Fenerbahçe Istanbul.

Anthony Avent– Born Oct. 18, 1969, in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. He is a retired American professional basketball player who was selected in the 1st round NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks.  He played with the Milwaukee Bucks, Orlando Magic, Vancouver Grizzlies, Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers in six NBA seasons. He graduated MXS in 1987. 


He played collegiately at Seton Hall University where he played in the 1989 NCAA championship game. Prior to Seton Hall, Avent played at Malcolm X Shabazz. In the 1996–97 season he played in several games for the perennially powerful Greek team Panathinaikos, and in 2001 he played for PAOK BC.

Madeline Bell– Born July 23, 1942, in Newark, NJ. She is an American soul singer who graduated from South Side. She became famous as a performer in the United Kingdom during the 1960s, having arrived from the US in the gospel show Black Nativity in 1962, with vocal group The Bradford Singers.


She was known for her hits with Blue Mink and her solo hit, “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me”. She worked as a session singer, most notably backing Dusty Springfield, and can be found on early Donna Summer material as well.[citation needed] Her first major solo hit was a cover version of Dee Dee Warwick’s single “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me”, which performed better on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart than the original.

Reggie “The Truck” Brown–  Born March 12, 1960, in in Dendron, Virginia. He graduated from Malcolm X Shabazz in 1978.  Reggie was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons and played with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Philadelphia Eagles.  Reggie is CEO of Great Day to Be Alive, LLC and is a motivational speaking across the country. His mission is to give back to the community, and to improve the lives of others.
Eric C. Williams– Born July 17, 1972, he attended Malcolm X Shabazz and is a former professional basketball player who, until 2007, had played in the NBA as a small forward for several teams. His last active season was in 2007 for the Charlotte Bobcats. In 2005, Williams decided to launch his own line of clothing honoring the fictional Negro Basketball League. After basketball, Williams made regular appearances in the 2010 season of the reality TV show “Basketball Wives.”
Thomas L. Woodard– An award winning N.J. based fashion designer and entrepreneur, Thomas is currently on the “Style“ network number one show “Jerseylicious” and he has appeared on the new designer show on Lifetime  “24 hour Catwalk”. He was also a semi-finalist for the designer show called the “Cut” with Tommy Hilfiger. He graduated Malcolm X Shabazz in 1982.

Lonnie Wright (Jan. 23, 1945 – Mar. 23, 2012) Wright was born in Newark, New Jersey and attended South Side. He earned All-City, County, State and American who earned honors in both football and basketball. He was inducted into the NJ State Interscholastic Athletic Association Hall of Fame in 1997. He was a professional basketball and football player who played in the same season for the Denver Rockets of the American Basketball Association and the Denver Broncos of the American Football League before switching to basketball on a full-time basis.


Wright attended Colorado State University, where he played basketball and set the school’s shot put record of 52 feet, 9 inches. He scored 1,246 points in his college basketball career, and was part of the Rams team that made it to the 22-team 1966 NCAA Tournament.

Cleo Hill– Born May 24, 1938, in Newark where he attend South Side. He is a former professional basketball player who was selected by the St. Louis Hawks in the first round (8th overall) of the 1961 NBA draft.. A 6’1” guard from the Winston-Salem State University, he was selected by and played for the St. Louis Hawks in the 1st round of the 1961 NBA Draft for one season. He was only the fifth African-American from an historically Black college and university to be taken in the first round of an NBA draft.


In 2008, Hill was profiled in a segment on the ESPN documentary Black Magic, which told the story of African Americans and basketball.

He went on to become a successful head coach at Essex County College in Newark, New Jersey.

Emily “Cissy” Houston–  Born Sept. 30, 1933, as Emily Drinkard. She is a soul/gospel singer.  Houston led a successful career as a backup singer for such artists as Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin.  She has won a Grammy Award for her work.  She is the mother of the late Whitney Houston. The Aunt to Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick, and a cousin of opera singer Leontyne Price.

Sharp James– Born Feb. 20, 1936, in Jacksonville, Florida. He is an American Democratic politician from New Jersey, who served as State Senator for the 29th Legislative District and was 35th Mayor of Newark, New Jersey. James was the second African American Mayor of Newark and served five four-year terms before declining to run for re-election. From June 1999 until July 2006, James simultaneously served as Mayor of Newark and New Jersey State Senator.


He declined to run for re-election to the State Senate in 2007; his term as Senator expired in January 2008. Prior to politics, James worked as a teacher, athletic director and professor at Essex County College.

James earned a B.A. in education from Montclair State University and a M.A. in physical education from Springfield College. He received the 1961 Department of Physiology Award from that school, and later completed postgraduate studies at Washington State University, Columbia University, and Rutgers University. He also served with the U.S. Army in Germany. In 1988, James was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Montclair State University, and, in 1991, an Honorary Doctorate from Drew University.

Edward Irving “Ed”Koch– (Dec. 12, 1924- Feb. 1, 2013) graduating from South Side in 1941. He was a  lawyer, politician and commentator, movie critic and reality television arbitrator. He served in the United States House of Representatives from 1969 to 1977 and three terms as mayor of New York City from 1978 to 1989.


In 1943 he was drafted into the United States Army, where he served as an infantryman with the 104th Infantry Division, landing in Cherbourg, France, in September 1944. He earned a European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with two campaign stars, a World War II Victory Medal, and the Combat Infantryman Badge for service in the European Theater of Operations. After V-E Day, because he could speak German, Koch was sent to Bavaria to help remove Nazi public officials from their jobs and find non-Nazis to take their place. He was honorably discharged with the rank of Sergeant in 1946.

Koch returned to New York City to attend City College of New York, graduating in 1945, and New York University School of Law, receiving his law degree in 1948.

Gregory Edwin Latta(Oct. 13, 1952 – Sept. 28, 1994) and attended Malcolm X Shabazz. He was a professional football player. As tight end, he was drafted by the Baltimore Colts of the NFL, but played instead for the Florida Blazers of the World Football League in 1974. He played for the Chicago Bears from 1975 to 1979.
Bernard MarcusBorn 1929, graduated from South Side in 1947. He is an American Pharmacist and retail entrepreneur. He co-founded Home Depot and was the company’s first CEO; he served as Chairman of the Board until retiring in 2002. In 1979, he and others founded the home-improvement retailer The Home Depot. Marcus served as the company’s first CEO for 19 years and also served as chairman of the board until his retirement in 2002. Marcus was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 2006.
Amir PinnixBorn No. 30, 1985, is a former college football running back for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. He was a prospect in the 2008 NFL Draft, but went undrafted. Amir played on the teams at Malcolm X Shabazz and was an honor student and a letterman in football, basketball and track. In football, he was a three-time All-City, All-Area, and All-Conference selection, a two-time All-County selection, and as a senior, he was also named as an All-State selection. He graduated in 2003, earning an athletic scholarship to the University of Minnesota.
Vanessa Watson– Head coach of her alma mater for the past  30 seasons, the girls basketball program has long-established the standard for excellence for girls basketball in N.J., previously won Group 3 state championships in 1983, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2009, before moving to Group 2 winning four consecutive state championships in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.  The longtime Shabazz coach racked up 720 wins and six Tournament of Champions titles while turning the Newark program into one of the state’s most elite. In 2018, she named the new women’s basketball coach at Bloomfield College.
Stylez G. White– Born Gregory A. White, Jr. on July 25, 1979, was born in Newark, NJ and attended Malcolm X Shabazz is a football defensive end for the Virginia Destroyers of the UFL.  He was drafted by the Houston Texans in the 7th round of the 2002 NFL Draft.  He played college football at Minnesota. He was a member of the Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Falcons, Tennessee Titans, New Orleans Saints, Washington Redskins, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Orlando Predators.

Vivian BlaineBorn Nov. 21, 1921, was born Vivian Stapleton, in Newark, New Jersey. The cherry-blonde-haired Blaine appeared on local stages as early as 1934. She attended Newark schools, and began her show business career at the now-defunct Mosque and Branford theaters. By the time she was 14, her stage-door father had her singing for a $1 a night at clubs, company parties, and police benefits. He also booked her with the Halsey Miller Orchestra. After graduating from South Side, she was appearing at the Governor Clinton Hotel in Manhattan.


In 1943 she appeared in movies with Laurel and Hardy. In 1944 she had the leading role in the film ‘Greenwich Village,’ one she got after storming into the office of film producer Darryl F. Zanuck to demand a better part. Between 1945 and 1950, she appeared at New York’s Roxy Theater. Following World War II she played at the Casino Theatre in London, and performed in a number of provincial British theaters. In 1953 she appeared at London’s Coliseum. In 1955 she starred in ‘Panama Hattie’ and a ‘Hatful of Rain’ at the Lyceum in New York City. In 1965 she appeared at the Paper Mill Playhouse as Miss Adelaide, a role she made famous in ‘Guys and Dolls.’ She also appeared in the subsequent film version, in which she co-starred with Marlon BrandoJean Simmons and Frank Sinatra

Li’za  Donnell-Woodard– born on Oct. 4, 1967, was All-City, County and State and was one of the top student athletes in the girl’s basketball history. Li’za attended the Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; was Athlete of the Week and represented UNC in the Olympic Festival Games.  Li’za worked for Spike Lee’s film Production Co. as a production assistant.  Li’za was the first female basketball player from Newark, NJ to make a WNBA team playing for the Washington Mystics. She is the Past SS/MXS Alumni President and current VP of JFK Elementary School.
Gloria Gaynor– Born Sept. 7, 1949, in Newark, New Jersey and went to South Side. She is an R&B singer best known for the disco era hit “I Will Survive” (1979). The popular song has become an anthem of female emancipation, and is still the #1 staple of office parties and karaoke nights. The song was awarded the only Grammy Award ever for Best Disco Recording in 1980. Gaynor’s life story can be found in her autobiography, “I Will Survive”.