The legacy of Henrietta Lacks, wife of a Bethlehem Steel worker whose cells – taken without her knowledge, then used around the world to advance biomedical research – will be honored at the 16th Annual Turner Station Heritage Festival and Praise Day Celebration this Saturday.
Festivities will begin with a service at Union Baptist Church, 105 Main Street, followed by the posting of a memorial plaque at 1:30 p.m. at Lacks’ former home at 713 N. Pittsburgh Ave.
Henrietta Lacks was a rural tobacco farmer from Virginia who developed an unusually aggressive form of cervical cancer while living in Turners Station in 1951.
While being treated at Johns Hopkins University, surgeons excised pieces of her tumor in an ongoing effort by Dr. George Otto Gey to establish a continuously growing human tumor cell line in culture, a feat that had only been previously accomplished with mouse cells.
Lacks’ cell line is today known by the name of HeLa and has been used since the 1950s to test the original Salk polio vaccine up to providing the basis for the new cancer vaccines today. At one time or another, most biomedical scientists have worked with HeLa cells.
Bill Barry to Speak on Sparrows Point
Festival activities will continue from 2 to 5 p.m. at the old VFW, 411-A New Pittsburgh Ave., and include a libation ceremony, dancers, a children’s corner, singers and music.
At 3 p.m., Bill Barry, retired director of labor studies at the Community College of Baltimore County, will give a PowerPoint presentation of the Sparrows Point steel mill, whose need for black laborers in the early 1900s resulted in the establishment of segregated Turners Station south of Dundalk.
A group discussion with longtime steel employees will trace the civil rights movement at the Point that broke the barriers of job discrimination.
Jerome R. Watson will sell and sign his two books about the community. In case of rain, afternoon activities will take place at the Union Baptist Church.