Thursday, February 29, 2024

Westside alumni reunite

by Kimberly Bailey-Tureaud

(L-R) David Washington, Larry McCullum, Bobby McRoy and Allen Holden gathered recently for the second annual Westside Alumni Reunion.

Lee Birda Rose, George Turner, Brenda Williams and Stephanie Rose were also in attendance.

Monroe and Brenda Williams visit with Marsha Washington during the gathering.

On Sept. 25, the second annual Westside Alumni Reunion was held at Nevada Partners, bringing together a bevy of former and current residents of Las Vegas’ Historic Westside community.
Reaching south to Bonanza Road, and as far north as Carey Street, the Westside is not precisely located on the westernmost end of Las Vegas. The region first became geographically synonymous with Las Vegas’ African-American community in the segregation-era 1950s. Although the enactment of fair housing legislation in 1965 allowed many black residents to live in all areas of the city, the distinction as a hub of black life in Las Vegas has endured to the present day.

Many of us grew up on the Westside. It is where we lived, worked, worshiped and enjoyed our lives. Who can forget such landmarks as Paula’s Palace, the Golden West Shopping Center, Sugar Hill, Larry’s Sight and Sound Records, Hamburger Haven, Town Tavern, the Moulin Rouge, The Cove, and of course, all of our inspiring churches? Community schools such as the Westside School, Matt Kelly, Bonanza, Operation Independence, Kit Carson and Divine Providence (to name just a few) were centers of learning that opened up a world of opportunity for countless young men and women.
Growing up, I can remember Friday night gatherings at Doolittle Community Center, where we would hang out with our friends and marvel at the talents of the community’s best basketball players. Who can forget the skating rink in the Commercial Center or the gatherings at City View Park — where the DJ, Hurt Um Bad, would spin our favorite songs?
With these and other memories in mind, longtime Westside residents Marsha and David Washington spearheaded the creation of the Westside Alumni Reunion in 2008. “Unfortunately, it all came about at the funeral repast of Bernice Hogan two years ago,” said Marsha Washington.

“When we entered the room, we saw so many old friends from the Westside who went to school with us, who we normally only see at funerals. We all agreed, ‘We have to stop meeting like this.’ So the Westside Alumni Reunion was formed, (along with) the Bernice Hogan Foundation. We meet once a year for a picnic and a formal dinner, and all proceeds go to the foundation for scholarships.”

This year, more than 100 people attended reunion activities and three scholarships were awarded to youths from the community who are pursuing higher education.
Said Marsha Washington: “The Westside now is not what I remember. The community was close when I was growing up here. I moved to the Westside with my parents when I was 14 years old, and I remembered a lot of locally owned businesses in the area. Currently, there seem to be more big business establishments that have replaced the smaller, community-based businesses. On a brighter note, I am happy to see the new beautification of the Westside. I recently visited Faye Duncan Daniels, who moved from the Westside to Arkansas. I told her that Martin Luther King Boulevard has palm trees now that light up at night. We both laughed and screamed, ‘We have arrived!’ I love the Westside community and I am very happy here. If the city can invest in our community like they do in other communities, the Westside will be respected.”

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