Sheila Arnold, affectionately called Ms. Sheila, will be presenting a historical presentation incorporating the stories of and about teachers from Langston. The school was Johnson City’s first African-American school opening in 1893 and closing during desegregation.
“It was more than just a school,” said Michael Young, Langston Education and Arts Development Chairman and Langston alumni.
LEAD is the organization responsible for the redevelopment of the school. The motto of Langston, “Enter to learn, depart to serve,” seems to hold strong in Young’s character. It is one aspect of the school he wishes to pass to the next generation.
In an interview with Young, at Langston on the corners of Elm Street and Myrtle Avenue, Young said the goal of LEAD is to further repurpose the old school. The organization is redeveloping a portion of the old building into a Community Multicultural Education and Arts Center.
“Ms. Arnold is a world renowned storyteller,” Young said. “We thought it would be a more intimate situation, and that it [her performance] would be a great way to connect with our donors.”
Ms. Sheila is a storyteller who has performed worldwide since 2003 and been a featured performer in the International Storytelling Center, at Jonesborough’s International Storytelling Festival. She is known for her interactive style that incorporates music.
“It is absolutely critical that we keep alive the memory of the schools that taught so many of our current, and recently retired, African-American Leaders,” Ms. Sheila said in a text interview, just before boarding a flight.
Ms. Sheila’s performance will be a composite of memories from previous student about their teachers. She prepared by reading interviews with former students, having discussions with her own parents and personal research.
“It’s all stewing in me,” Ms. Sheila said. “Stewing for me is like a germination time. I will write an outline, broaden it out a bit and finish planning my entrance.”
She may be struggling on her costume a bit, but her passion for the project is palpable. Even through text one assumes the vigor of passion in her response to questions. She is after all known to bring history to life during her performances.
A freed slave who became a prominent political leader, Dr. Hezekiah Hankal, founded the school. It was named after a Virginia born lawyer John Mercer Langston. LEAD, Young and Ms. Sheila are continuing the legacy started so many years ago.
For more information and tickets to visit http://leadlhs.org/.