CELEBRATING BLACK HISTORY
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 13:24

Muriel Gray (left) and Courtney Speed (right) shared community announcements during the Turner Station  Heritage Committee’s Black History Month Celebration last Sunday.
photo by Nicole Rodman

Event honors those who serve the community

by Nicole Rodman

Last Sunday, Feb. 23, residents and friends of Turner Station marked Black History Month by gathering to honor those who have served the community.
     The 8th annual celebration, organized by the Turner Station Heritage Committee, was held at St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church on Avon Beach Road.
    Approximately 100 guests filled the church to celebrate the day’s honorees.
    Honorees at last weekend’s celebration included former VFW commanders, library employees and church ushers from across the Turner Station community.
    The day’s festivities began with remarks by mistress of celebration Najma Wade Jamaludeen.
    Introduced by Jamaludeen, the honored ushers processed in, followed closely by members of Turner Station Boy Scout Troop and Cub Scout Pack 270.
    The Scouts presented the flag and led attendees in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
    Local musician Calvin Statham was also on hand to lead the congregation in a series of songs, including “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
    Often called “The Black National Anthem,” the song has its origins in a poem written by civil rights activist James Weldon Johnson. It was later set to music.
    “This song was meant to be a connecting-type song for people of color,” Statham explained.
    The main focus of last Sunday’s event was to honor many of those who have served the Turner Station community throughout the years.
    Among those honored was Herbert Malone, former post commander of the Turner Station Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).
    In his remarks, Malone recounted the origins of the Turner Station VFW, noting that he was the first African-American to be a member of the 14th District of the VFW (a district that comprises Dundalk, Essex, Rosedale and Joppa, Md.)
    Other honorees included former VFW post commanders Alexander James, Linwood Jackson and former VFW volunteer Derrick A. Lyons, Sr.
    The event also honored staff of the former Turner Station library, including library clerk Martha Hunt and aides Margaret Risher, Lena James and Muriel L. Gray.
    “It was a joy to serve the children in Turner Station,” Risher said of her time at the library.
    42 ushers were also recognized during the day’s celebration for their service to area churches.
    While much of the day was dedicated to honoring the service of those still living, mention was also made of those pioneers who helped build the community.   
    During brief remarks, Mary Coleman recounted the contributions of Anthony Thomas, a Turner Station pioneer.
    With segregation limiting business opportunities for African-Americans of the time, Thomas worked to establish businesses within the community.
    Among other ventures, Thomas established Tuxedo Savings and Loan in 1927 to help Turner Station residents secure financing to purchase their own homes.
    His son, Dr. Joseph H. Thomas, with his wife Flavia, continued his father’s work, building homes and establishing such landmarks as the Anthony Theatre and Edgewater Beach.
    As Coleman announced, this August, Anthony Thomas, Dr. Joseph Thomas and Flavia Thomas will be honored with honorary street signs placed in the community.
    The signs will be installed during the Turner Station Heritage and Praise Day Celebration in August.
    Time was also taken during last weekend’s event to honor the winners of the Henrietta Lacks Essay Contest.
    Sponsored by the Henrietta Lacks Legacy Group, the contest was open to Dundalk-area middle and high school students, as well as students at Henrietta Lacks Health and Bioscience High School in Vancouver, Wash.
    Winners in the high school category included first-place winner Karina Paul, second-place winner Amber Canady and third-place winner Nick Echloff.
    Middle-school winners included first-place winner Max Brilhart, second-place winner Jasper Baciglupa and third-place winner Anastasia Farley.
    First-place winners received $100, second prize winners won $50 and third prize winners earned $30.
    Among area notables in attedance at the event was Joe DiCara, a Democratic candidate for the District 7 seat on the Baltimore County Council.
    According to DiCara, he was compelled to attend the celebration after learning about Turner Station’s history from community activist Courtney Speed.
    The day’s celebration wound to a close with announcements by Muriel Gray and Courtney Speed, followed by a prayer by the Rev. Kay F. Albury, lead pastor of St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church.
    While Black History Month is drawing to a close, the contributions of those who have served the Turner Station community will long be remembered.