A Tribute to the Golden Legacy
By Kayland Hagwood, For The Lancaster News
More than 200 people came to the first Tribute to the Golden Legacy event at Mt. Zion AME Zion Church on Sunday, May 4. The purpose of the night – honor those who jworked at Barr Street before it closed in 1970, said secretary of the BSHS Foundation, Dr. Charmaine Stradford.
“The program turned out just as we expected,” Stradford said. “Barr Street graduates came back to see their teachers. We had people who graduated from Barr Street on the program. It was a wonderful program all the way around.”
The event was organized by The Barr Street High School Foundation. During the program, assistant treasurer for the foundation, Willie Gordon, spoke about Barr Street’s history and commented that “…this is something that’s long, long over due.”
“It actually dates back to 1927. They built the first school for black students in the city of Lancaster. That eventually evolved into Lancaster training school, which was actually built right here where Mt. Zion church sits,” Gordon said. “At about 1952 or 53 Mr. Rucker, who was principal at the time, pushed for better facilities for black schools in Lancaster County and that resulted in J.J. Clinton Elementary, Southside Elementary, and what was to become Barr Street High School.”
Thoughts of a Golden Legacy program began in 2009 when The Barr Street Foundation created its Facebook page.
Gordon says after the Facebook receives much attention, “there were several comments [saying] ‘We need to do more. What else can we do?’”
The Foundation board then decided to create the Barr Street webpage and make the yearbook available as well, but people still wanted to do more, according to Gordon.
“The schools were consolidated in 1970, I was told, and several people had mentioned the fact that a lot of the things that were associated with Barr Street were either put in a dumpster or put in a landfill or were just trashed somewhere,” Gordon said. “We felt that we needed something to remember the school by.”
Tributes were escorted from their seats in the pews to chairs aligned in front of the church. Before being seated, each person was pinned with an honorary corsage.
“There were times where I even wanted to cry, because that’s how touching the thoughts and the atmosphere was to me,” Tribute Rubye Johnson said. “I think the event was one of the most noble ideas that could ever come foreword. I’m very proud of this foundation.”
Johnson said she never expected anything like this event to happen.
“As I looked at the ones who participated here, I see my students. I wouldn’t have ever thought that they would be in this position where they are publicly saying thank you to teachers,” Johnson said. “You usually get feedback individually, and you see the success people have made… and (they) say thank you to you and you feel good, but this has so much more impact.”
Gayle Frasier and Brenda Pogue performed, “The Lord’s Prayer,” and, “You Raise Me Up,” in opera-style tones during the program.
“I didn’t actually go to Barr Street, but two of my siblings – my brother and my sister – went to Barr Street, and I knew a lot of these teachers because I grew up with them, too. Some of them taught me like in middle school,” Fraiser said. “I just felt like it was a very good program, very good idea, to honor these people.”
The 2014 Barr Street High School Foundation Scholarship was presented mid-program to high school seniors Benjamin Dunlap and Lauren Czarnecki. Both received a $1,000 scholarship.
“I actually got a call this past Friday and my dad answered the phone first and then he handed it to me,” Dunlap said. “I didn’t know who it was first and then they told me it was Mrs. Valerie from the Barr Street Foundation saying that I received the scholarship for Barr Street and I was thrilled and happy and just thankful.”
After presenting the scholarship, Stradford challenged guests, as a Lancaster community, to always remember Barr Street’s legacy and help the foundation promote the lessons taught.
“Five dollars per week, for 50 weeks out of the year, multiplied by 20 of you [guests] will gross $5,000 in scholarships to deserving students,” Stradford said. “How can you do that? Number 1, join the foundation; our membership dues are 10 dollars per month – we also need members to go carry out our mission.
“You may (also) donate to the scholarship fund. These funds help us give back to deserving students from Lancaster High School through scholarships. You may pledge as much as five dollars or more and it’s tax deductible.”
At the end of the event, former educator and tribute Mary Belk was at a loss of words to describe her feelings on the event.
“I never thought of anyone having a tribute like this. I never dreamed of one like this,” Belk said. “This is wonderful. This is just magnificent.”
The evening concluded with a reception in Mt. Zion’s Fellowship Hall.
Published in The Lancaster News, Wednesday, May 4, 2014