Turner Station to celebrate heritage at annual event
Wednesday, 18 July 2012 11:07

Heritage and Praise Day to be held on Aug. 4

by Nicole Rodman

    Turner Station is a community steeped in tradition.
    The historic African-American community was originally formed in the late 1880s by workers at the nearby former Bethlehem Steel plant.
    As time went on, the community grew. Schools, churches and community centers began to spring up as the area thrived.
    Though the community is no longer based on steel, residents of Turner Station continue to look back, celebrating their heritage, even as they look forward to the future.
    For Turner Station community activist Courtney Speed, going ahead is impossible unless you know where you have been.
    Founder of the Turner Station Heritage Foundation, Speed is one of the leading forces behind Turner Station’s annual Heritage and Praise Day, held each August at Union Baptist Church, 105 Main Street.

This year, the 15th annual Heritage and Praise Day celebration will be held at the church on Saturday, Aug. 4, from noon to 1 p.m.
    During the hour long ceremony, a number of community members will come together to perform skits, songs and monologues reflecting Turner Station history.
    The main focus of the celebration will be former Turner Station resident Henrietta Lacks.
    Increasingly well known since the publication of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot in 2010, Henrietta Lacks was a resident of Turner Station until her death from cancer in 1951.
    Lacks became part of medical history after her death when her unusually prolific cells  (named “HeLa” cells in an effort to keep Lacks’ identity hidden) were harvested and used to develop countless medical treatments around the globe.
    By using Lacks’ cells over subsequent decades scientists have found cures and treatments for a number of diseases, including polio, cancer and AIDS.   
    Though Lacks’ has been a part of medical history since 1951, it was not until decades later that the Lacks family learned of the HeLa cell line when they were contacted by medical students who had worked with the cells.
    Making up for lost time, Speed and the residents of Turner Station have held the Heritage and Praise Day Celebration each year in an effort to honor Lacks and her contributions to medical science.
    Following the gathering at Union Baptist Church from noon to 1 p.m. on Aug. 4, all are invited to attend a community celebration on the grounds of the former Turner Station VFW Post 4438, located at 411-A New Pittsburgh Ave.
    Scheduled from 1:30 to 5 p.m., the event will feature music, dancing, a variety of vendors and more.
    Also on hand at the celebration will be Henrietta Lacks’ son, Sonny, who will sign copies of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
    For more information, or to register as a vendor, call Courtney Speed at 410-340-4888 or Michael McFadden at 443-552-6018.