Turner Station group hopes to honor Lacks with walk, motorcade

Joe Louis Gladney, a childhood friend of the Lacks family, left, Kim Sickles and Courtney Speed pray before making their way to Logan Village Shopping Center on Sunday.

A group of Turner Station leaders are planning a major walk and motorcade in honor of Henrietta Lacks next year. But first, they took small steps.

Courtney Speed, accompanied by a few others traveling by vehicle, walked from Lacks’ historical home on New Pittsburg Avenue to Logan Village Shopping Center on Sunday to kick off her team’s efforts to start an annual walk and motorcade, which next year, she hopes, will go from the home to Johns Hopkins Hospital.

On her way to the shopping center this weekend, Speed said she and her colleagues from a New Shiloh Baptist Church Turner Station Evangelical Outreach committee want to establish a march to honor Lacks during each anniversary month of the biomedical pioneer’s 1951 death from cervical cancer, as well as her youngest son’s 2020 death, which was also in October.

Henrietta Lacks was a Turner Station resident whose cells were sampled, without her consent or knowledge, at Hopkins when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Her cells have since been used in multiple medical breakthroughs, and are the point of focus in a recent lawsuit filed by the Lacks family, who are seeking to recoup profits earned by pharmaceutical companies which have used her cells.

Next year, the group plans to include learning sessions about the Dundalk and Baltimore neighborhoods which they would pass through on the way to Hopkins, and raise funds for rehabbing the old VFW Post there, the Henrietta Lacks Legacy Groups’ efforts to create a wax figure of Lacks, Speed said.

The hike is being planned by the New Shiloh committee, which includes Speed as well as fellow Turner Station elders Kim Sickles, Muriel Gray and Joe Louis Gladney, who was family friends with the Lacks family as a child. In addition to the walk, they are creating a council of elders with a goal of teaching younger residents about the way things were in Turner Station, and how to forge forward.

Speed said Logan Village was the destination of the 1.5-mile trek to remember the history of Logan Field, and to show support for businesses filling the “food desert” at the south end of Dundalk, as stores at the shopping center have left over the years.

“We want to see what we can do to get these businesses up and running,” she said.