Article in History / United States / African American
The Hall's Hill/High View Park Historic Preservation Coalition presented on February 13, 2016, Living Legends from the community culminating with awards to the History Makers. Simple affair? Not hardly it was a tribute to sustainable community in the face of incredible gentrification.
 
 
 

On February 13, 2016 The Halls Hill/High View Park, North Arlington, Va. acknowledged 'Living Legends' from our community. What made this so special was that it recognized the life and work of so many residences who benefited from shared values and experiences.Since this is where I grew up, it is only fair to name a few of the stand outs: Reggie Harrison (renamed Kamal Ali Salaam-EL) a former Pittsburg Steeler running back with two Super Bowl rings.

Charles Augins a successful dancer, actor, choreographer, director, and teacher. His accomplishments are eye popping including a major role in “Revenge of the Pink Panther”. He is presently a teacher at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts as Artist in Residence. Washington, DC.

Winifred (Winnie) Owens-Hart whose description included: a ceramic artist and documentary filmmaker and cultural researcher. She came along with parents who fully supported her passion for art. She is a professor Emeritus in the Department of Art, Howard University, in Washington DC. She is renowned nationally and internationally and has work in the Smithsonian and Renwick galleries in DC. She created a monument at the front of our community recognizing those who grew up there and their contributions.

One of my closest and favorite is E. Leslie Hamm, because he had one of the greatest Mother’s (Mrs. Dorothy Hamm) who inspired young girls by helping them to develop their political wit and awareness. His Father was an architect and civic leader for our community influencing a few of the 'living legends' to become involved with the school board and local government. His Dad and mine were instrumental in keeping Route 66 from running through our community. His brother and I grew up together. Leslie stated that he had no choice but to be successful because of his parents. His consulting business gained the status and millions with the 8A government designation and performed work all over the world. He was chairman of the board for the St. Augustine College in Raleigh, NC and continues to do board work at colleges in Virginia. He is a philanthropist in the Halls Hill Community supporting initiatives that promote sustainable community.

For Black History Month, the last but not least award went to the 'History Makers'. The four people (in the photograph) who on February 2, 1959 when coming out of elementary school, were asked to integrate the nearby Virginia schools in walking distance. This would eliminate busing us to all black schools in South Arlington. They became the first tier to integrate the schools in North Arlington. Others schools throughout the state experienced delays that day or completely shut down, as I found out later, my sister-in-law's school district, had been closed for four (4) years! Gloria Thompson, my sister, Michael Jones (sitting next to her on the right), who lived around the corner, Ronald Deskins and Lance Newman (on her left), who lived closer together, where the 'smarter and brighter' kids selected. My sister, in particular appreciated this award from the well attended event that had presenters and performers from within the community. This presentation, according to her, was the very best. She received a medal that went around her neck and an lucite award. Usually soft spoken, her behavior showed how pleased she was to be acknowledged by this group of community people which she knew and appreciated.

The experience of integration was disruptive (new schools, lessons, teachers etc.). Even though these four (4) were well prepared, it had a profound affect on their psyche. I hope Virginians continue to acknowledge my sister and her first tier integrationist comrades, because at a very tender age they had to grow up fast, perform well, and be a beacon of light for the second and third tier of students integrating schools within walking distance of our community.

My family was well represented in lawsuit cases via my eldest sister (Clarissa Sligh) through a determined Mother (Mrs. Ethel Thompson), who put her children on the line to not only integrate schools (my brother, Stephen Thompson, Washington-Lee High School) but marched and demonstrated against the Nazi’s to attend a movie theater. She put us on 'petitions to attend local schools' by going to the court so all of her children could attend very good local schools. She understood education was the key to getting ahead.

This ‘Living Legends’ event held in Hall’s Hill/High View Park at Langston Community Center, formerly on the land of Langston Elementary School, was presented by a Preservation Coalition of community members determined to to give meaning and purpose by keeping the community connected, supported and sustainable. Thank you for your efforts.

 
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Lillian L Thompson
Lillian Thompson received a Master's of Architecture from Columbia University and Interior and Environmental Degree from Pratt Institute, se

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