Lacks hon­ors con­tinue with dual events

Sign ded­i­ca­tion, Praise Day held

The Dundalk Eagle - - FRONT PAGE - By NI­COLE ROD­MAN nrod­man@ches­

The hon­ors kept com­ing for Hen­ri­etta Lacks as lo­cal res­i­dents, elected of­fi­cials and her family cel­e­brated the “mother of mod­ern medicine” with a street sign un­veil­ing and com­mu­nity cel­e­bra­tion last week.

The for­mer Turner Sta­tion res­i­dent, whose un­wit­tingly-har­vested cells were used to de­velop treat­ments for some of the most se­ri­ous dis­eases in his­tory, died of cer­vi­cal can­cer in 1951 at the age of 31.

On July 29, Bal­ti­more County Ex­ec­u­tive Kevin Kamenetz (D-Bal­ti­more County) was on hand to ded­i­cate Main Street and New Pitts­burg Av­enue in Turner Sta­tion as “Hen­ri­etta Lacks Place” and de­clare the first Satur­day in Au­gust as Hen­ri­etta Lacks Day in Bal­ti­more County.

Just days later, on Aug. 1 — what would have been Lacks’ 97th birth­day — state Sens. Johnny Ray Salling (R-6) and Shirley Nathan-Pul­liam (D-44) were joined by mem­bers of the Lacks family, com­mu­nity res­i­dents and others to ded­i­cate

Broen­ing High­way be­tween the county line and Mary­land Av­enue/Avon Beach Road as “Hen­ri­etta Lacks Way.”

The cer­e­mony was held in the Lo­gan Vil­lage Shop­ping Cen­ter, where a cer­e­mo­nial sign was un­veiled be­fore the ac­tual road sign was re­vealed by high­way crews.

The move came af­ter leg­is­la­tion co-spon­sored by Salling and Nathan-Pul­liam was passed into law dur­ing the 2017 Gen­eral Assem­bly ses­sion.

In ad­di­tion, Gov. Larry Ho­gan (R-MD) is­sued a procla­ma­tion declar­ing ev­ery Aug. 1 as Hen­ri­etta Lacks Day in the state of Mary­land.

“Through her life and the med­i­cal ad­vances gained by her im­mor­tal cells, dis­eases such as po­lio have been erad­i­cated, and the hu­man genome has been suc­cess­fully mapped,” Gov. Ho­gan said in a state­ment. “This ded­i­ca­tion sign will serve as a re­minder for gen­er­a­tions to come of the con­tri­bu­tions to medicine made thanks to Hen­ri­etta Lacks.”

The cer­e­mony in­cluded re­marks from many speak­ers, in­clud­ing Salling, Nathan-Pul­liam, Lacks’ son Lawrence Lacks Sr. and grand­sons Lawrence Lacks Jr. and Al­fred Lacks Carter and Hen­ri­etta Lacks Legacy Group pres­i­dent Court­ney Speed.

Also on hand was Earl Lewis, deputy sec­re­tary of the Mary­land Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion.

The high­way sign, Lewis noted in his re­marks, will serve to en­sure that Lacks’ “legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of fu­ture gen­er­a­tions in the com­mu­nity she called home.”

In brief com­ments, Lawrence Lacks Sr. thanked ev­ery­one in at­ten­dance for the cer­e­mony, not­ing, “It makes me proud to be the el­dest son of Hen­ri­etta Lacks.”

But the hon­ors did not stop there.

On Aug. 5, mem­bers of the Turner Sta­tion Her­itage Foun­da­tion held the 20th an­nual Turner Sta­tion Praise Day Cel­e­bra­tion at noon at Union Bap­tist Church.

Es­tab­lished 20 years ago by Court­ney Speed and other com­mu­nity ac­tivists, the event serves as a home­com­ing for lo­cal res­i­dents to rec­og­nize Lacks and other out­stand­ing com­mu­nity mem­bers.

The cer­e­mony in­cluded Bi­ble read­ings, hymns and re­marks from sev­eral speak­ers, in­clud­ing res­i­dent Joyce Curbeam, Hen­ri­etta Lacks Legacy Group mem­ber Muriel Gray and Turner Sta­tion Her­itage Foun­da­tion mem­bers and com­mu­nity ac­tivists Del­mus Sim­mons and Court­ney Speed.

Lacks’ grand­son, David Lacks Jr., served as master of cer­e­monies for the event.

Procla­ma­tions were is­sued by Tony Baysmore, on be­half of County Ex­ec­u­tive Kamenetz, and Lyn­dra Mar­shall, chair­per­son of the Mary­land Com­mis­sion on African-Amer­i­can His­tory and Cul­ture, on be­half of Gov. Ho­gan.

The event also in­cluded prayers by Union Bap­tist pas­tor, the Rev. Eric John­son, and a per­for­mance of the poem “Hen­ri­etta Lacks and her Im­mor­tal Cells,” by poet Elaine Olaoye, with Vance James on drums. Sev­eral of Lacks’ great-grand­sons joined Olaoye in recit­ing her poem.

A high­light of the cer­e­mony was the un­veil­ing of an elab­o­rate, col­or­ful quilt telling the story of Hen­ri­etta Lacks and her legacy. The quilt was de­signed by doc­u­men­tary story quil­ter Dr. Joyce M.E. Gaither.

Fol­low­ing the cer­e­mony at Union Bap­tist, at­ten­dees gath­ered at the for­mer VFW post on New Pitts­burgh Av­enue for food, fel­low­ship and fun.


A quilt de­signed by Dr. Joyce M.E. Gaither tells the story of Hen­ri­etta Lacks.

Elected of­fi­cials, lo­cal res­i­dents and mem­bers of the Lacks family gath­ered to ded­i­cate a por­tion of Broen­ing High­way as Hen­ri­etta Lacks Way on Aug. 1.


Poet Elaine Olaoye re­cited her work, “Hen­ri­etta Lacks and her Im­mor­tal Cells,” with three of Hen­ri­etta Lacks’ great-grand­sons. They were ac­com­pa­nied by Vance James on drums.

Lyn­dra Mar­shall (cen­ter), chair­per­son of the Mary­land Com­mis­sion on African-Amer­i­can His­tory and Cul­ture, pre­sented a state of Mary­land ci­ta­tion on be­half of Gov. Larry Ho­gan to (from left) Turner Sta­tion Her­itage Foun­da­tion pres­i­dent Court­ney Speed...

Hen­ri­etta Lacks’ el­dest son, Lawrence Lacks Sr., was flanked by (from left) Lawrence Lacks Jr. and Al­fred Lacks Carter as he of­fered re­marks on Aug. 1.

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