The Bruce Street School Capital Campaign Begins With A Bang

Held on March 30th, the Capital Campaign raised $1,450 in a single day and brought together community members from across the National Heritage Area.

On the last day of March, the Arabia Mountain Heritage Area Alliance and its partners kicked off Phase 2 of the Bruce Street School Capital Campaign. The event began with a parade down Bruce Street to help raise funds and spread awareness of the effort to revitalize DeKalb County’s oldest free Black school.

A Parade Down Bruce Street

Parade participants with a fire truck in the background (David Naugle).

(David Naugle)

The parade featured Arabia Alliance members, Lithonia Mayor Shameka Reynolds, Bruce Street School alum, and members of AWARE (Atlanta Wildlife Animal Rescue Effort) who brought along one of their animal ambassadors, a possum named Princess.

AWARE’s Marjan Ghadrdan with animal ambassador Princess Possom (David Naugle).

Remembering A Special School

The short parade ended in front of the stone ruins of the Bruce Street School where there were refreshments and a live DJ session by DJ Khiko. Arabia Alliance Executive Director Revonda Cosby opened the program in front of nearly 100 attendees, followed by a speech by Vanneriah Wynn, a current Lithonia City Council member who graduated from the school. Wynn weighed in on her experience there and explained the significance of the school’s legacy.

Cosby addresses the crowd in front of the old stone ruins (David Naugle).

Next, Lithonia Mayor Shameka Reynolds took to the podium to speak about the connections between the community of Lithonia and the Bruce Street School’s place in its history. After this, the audience was treated to an energetic performance by the Bruce Street Steppers, a dance group led by Rebecca Evans.

Lithonia Mayor Shameka Reynolds spoke about being born and raised in the City of Granite (David Naugle).

The Bruce Street Steppers mid-performance (Sasha Johnson).

Following the performance, Demetrius Pinkett from the office of Mereda Davis Johnson, DeKalb Commissioner for District 5, spoke about the kind of education kids received at Bruce Street. Finally, Allene Harper and Marcia Glenn Hunter, both Bruce Street School alums, took to the front of the audience to unveil a banner representing the fundraising progress, visualized by a thermometer. The thermometer was already half full with a surprise $50,000 donation from the Arabia Alliance. By the end of the day, an additional $1,450 was raised: $1,000 in checks at the event and $450 from website scans!

The biggest shocker of all? Demetrius Pinkett pledged a surprise $60,000 from Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson toward the Bruce Street School project. “Mereda Davis Johnson remains our vigilant champion,” said Revonda Cosby. “It’s an amazing continued vow of support from DeKalb County’s District 5. The Alliance and our whole team remain grateful to Commissioner Davis Johnson and the continued support and great work that she brings to this project.”

The moment before the big reveal (Sasha Johnson).

Two graduates from the Bruce Street School, Allene Harper and Marcia Glenn Hunter, unveil the fundraising thermometer (David Naugle).

The Community Behind This Campaign

The kickoff to the Bruce Street School Capital Campaign brought together many different people who all shared a common interest: the preservation and revitalization of a local legacy. Enthusiasm was high, tears of joy were shed, and it was only the beginning. A representation of strength, camaraderie, and adversities overcome, the Bruce Street School ruins that sit next to the East DeKalb at Bruce Street Senior Center have inspired an effort that will continue to bring together this community to protect its history.

For those who’d like to donate, please visit the Bruce Street School revitalization donation webpage.