Legacy, history at heart of Sewickley's Juneteenth celebration
Growing up on a farm in Iowa, with the closest neighbors two miles away, Wayne Murphy learned the value of hard work.
He gathered eggs at age 7 and cleaned chicken coops at 8. His family had no indoor plumbing and education took place in a one-room country school house, all memories he looks back on today as gifts his parents gave him — and experiences he'd like to pass onto his two grandchildren.
“Work and chores was a part of life,” said Murphy, who is mayor of Edgeworth “I certainly want our children and grandchildren to know a little bit of the background.”
Murphy joined a seven-member panel discussion, “Legacy, What will be Ours?” that took place on Saturday in the Sewickley Community Center, in conjunction with a two-day Juneteenth celebration. Juneteenth honors a series of events in 1865 beginning when Gen. Gordon Granger and his troops announced that enslaved men and women were freed.
Like Murphy, participants brought a distinct perspective to the dialogue, where everyone had the same consensus: Teaching children and grandchildren about their legacy is a must.
“It starts with the seed we put in the ground,” said panelist Shon Owens, coordinator of the Aliquippa Men and Fathers and Fatherhood Initiative of Beaver County. “We think 1-year-old, 2-year-old is too early to begin to teach them. It's not too early.”
The two-hour conversation served as one of the main highlights of Sewickley's fifth annual Juneteenth event, which on Saturday included a free swim, a tennis clinic and a dedication ceremony for the center's newly renovated gymnasium.
Autumn Redcross, chairwoman and organizer, said she enjoyed seeing the planning come to fruition.
“My hope is always that we can walk away from an event like this as a better person,” Redcross said.
Sewickley native Bonita Lee Penn, head writer of SoulPitt magazine, served as moderator of the discussion. Other panelists included Sewickley resident Suzanne Rideout; Daniel B. Matthews Historical Society member Alan Milliner; Quaker Valley Democratic Committee Vice Chairman Otis McAliley; 2014 Quaker Valley graduate Addison Gould; and artist and educator Betty Asche Douglas.
“Our legacy is our roots. No plant can grow without its roots, and no child can grow without being rooted in something,” said Douglas, who grew up in Beaver Falls during segregation. The Sewickley American Legion was started because blacks couldn't join the white legion. Blacks couldn't swim at local swimming pools, couldn't join Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. Douglas said her parents became the first black troop leaders and started their own scout groups. She was the first black teacher in Rochester. “A branch can go this way and that, but it can't leave behind what it comes from.”
Owens said he remembers sitting on his grandmother's Damascus, Ga., porch and listening to her stories. She was a sharecropper born to a slave. He never had the chance to meet his grandfather, who died before he was born, but his grandmother, who died at age 106, made sure they knew the stories, he said.
“My legacy, what it means to me, is what my grandmother often told me on her porch,” said Owens, of Center Township. “... so I know and am sure of who I am.”
Larissa Dudkiewicz is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Quaker Valley parents urged to step up on cyber safety
- Aleppo firefighter’s ministry aims to help first responders
- Sewickley VFW could be forced to close