Pre­serv­ing the his­tory and her­itage of Turner Sta­tion

The Dundalk Eagle - - OPINION - Opin­ions ex­pressed are those of the writer and do not rep­re­sent the opin­ion of The Dun­dalk Ea­gle or Adams Pub­lish­ing Group.

Last Satur­day, I had the priv­i­lege of at­tend­ing the un­veil­ing of a very spe­cial street sign in Turner Sta­tion. The sign des­ig­nated Main Street at New Pitts­burg Av­enue as Hen­ri­etta Lacks Way.

I would hope most read­ers know Mrs. Lacks’ story by now. If not, I of­fer a brief re­cap in our cover story. But do your­self a fa­vor and ex­plore a bit fur­ther. Re­becca Sk­loot’s “The Im­mor­tal Life of Hen­ri­etta Lacks” is a good place to start, but I would sug­gest go­ing a step fur­ther and at­tend­ing the 20th an­nual Praise Day Cel­e­bra­tion in Turner Sta­tion this Satur­day, Aug. 5.

Start­ing at noon at Union Bap­tist Church, at 105 Main Street, the an­nual event in­cludes speak­ers, in­clud­ing many mem­bers of the Lacks fam­ily, pre­sen­ta­tions, his­tor­i­cal pho­tos and a com­mu­nity gath­er­ing at the for­mer VFW post fol­low­ing the cer­e­mony.

It is or­ga­nized by the Turner Sta­tion Her­itage Foun­da­tion, spear­headed by pres­i­dent Court­ney Speed. Mrs. Speed has been a tire­less ad­vo­cate for Turner Sta­tion and Hen­ri­etta Lacks for many years, de­vot­ing her time and en­ergy to pro­mot­ing the fas­ci­nat­ing and im­por­tant his­tory of the his­toric African-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity.

In re­cent years, Turner Sta­tion has un­der­gone many changes. The for­mer Sollers Point High School (by then Sollers Point Tech­ni­cal High School) was de­mol­ished to make way for fields and a park­ing lot ser­vic­ing the re­cently-built Sollers Point Multi-Pur­pose Cen­ter.

And at the en­trance to Turner Sta­tion at Dun­dalk Av­enue and Main Street, a Fam­ily Dol­lar store is be­ing con­structed on land that Speed and oth­ers hoped would one day house a mu­seum ded­i­cated to Lacks and other he­roes of Turner Sta­tion.

While that mu­seum did not come to pass, at least not in that lo­ca­tion (there are his­tor­i­cal me­men­tos for view at the Sollers Point Multi-Pur­pose Cen­ter), it is none­the­less vi­tal to re­call and pre­serve Turner Sta­tion’s his­tory and he­roes.

Be­gin­ning in the 1880s, the com­mu­nity of Turner Sta­tion rose with the steel mill, built up by work­ers who could not find space to set­tle in Spar­rows Point.

In the decades that fol­lowed, the com­mu­nity was de­vel­oped by strong, de­ter­mined fore­fa­thers and fore­moth­ers. Those pi­o­neers built a com­mu­nity with their own hands, hearts and minds, in the face of a larger so­ci­ety that treated them with scorn and op­pres­sion.

The he­roes of Turner Sta­tion are re­mem­bered still to­day, from Dr. Joseph H. Thomas, who cared for the ill, while build­ing up com­mu­nity land­marks, in­clud­ing An­thony Homes and the An­thony Theater, to Dr. William Wade, who gave of his time and tal­ents to not only heal the sick, but to sup­port lo­cal in­sti­tu­tions.

Through her ef­forts, Court­ney Speed is pro­mot­ing a re­turn to the hard work and val­ues that built the Turner Sta­tion com­mu­nity. And she’s not alone. Com­mu­nity lead­ers like Glo­ria Nel­son, Edythe Brooks and oth­ers give freely of their time to pro­mote Turner Sta­tion’s rich his­tory while con­tin­u­ing to sup­port the peo­ple, or­ga­ni­za­tions, busi­nesses and in­sti­tu­tions of the com­mu­nity.

So don’t for­get that lit­tle slice of Dun­dalk tucked down there, nes­tled up next to Watersedge.

It is a vi­brant com­mu­nity with a rich his­tory and her­itage that de­serves to be ex­plored and re­mem­bered.

Pick up a copy of Sk­loot’s book, but don’t stop there.

Louis Diggs’ From the Mead­ows to the Point: The His­to­ries of the African-Amer­i­can Com­mu­nity of Turner Sta­tion is a mus­tread, as are Jerome R. Wat­son’s Im­ages of Amer­ica-Turner Sta­tion and The Churches of Turner Sta­tion.

And if you want to get a taste of his­tory straight from the source (in­clud­ing ap­pear­ances by Diggs and Wat­son) be sure to check out the 20th an­nual Praise Day Cel­e­bra­tion this Satur­day, Aug. 5, at noon at Union Bap­tist Church, 105 Main Street.

I hope to see you there!

PHOTO BY NI­COLE RODMAN

Hen­ri­etta Lacks Le­gacy Group pres­i­dent Court­ney Speed (se­cond from left) ac­cepted a procla­ma­tion from Gov. Larry Ho­gan pre­sented by (from left) Lyn­dra Marshall, chair­man of the Mary­land Com­mis­sion on African-Amer­i­can His­tory and Cul­ture; Dale Green, vice-chair of the com­mis­sion, and for­mer chair­man Theodore Mack at the Praise Day cel­e­bra­tion in 2016.

For­mer Turner Sta­tion res­i­dent Hen­ri­etta Lacks will be hon­ored at the an­nual Praise Day Cel­e­bra­tion on Aug. 5.

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