By Dr. Zora Denson and Verta Looper
Imagine a poignant performance that depicts black history in Lancaster County. Who was the mastermind behind such a creative idea? Yes, it was Marjorie Clinton McMurray.
The list of leaders and achievers depicted in the 1985 tabloid, Black History Month’s 60th Anniversary Edition, published by The Lancaster News, are just a few of the men and women who make up Lancaster’s mosaic of black history. .
Denise Brown-Bailey, a freelance artist and niece of Ms McMurray, designed the edition’s cover, which “depicts the African connection from the beginning of American society until today”, according to the edition itself. .
This tabloid is the result of Mrs. McMurray’s production of the competition, Black Pioneers of Lancaster County, 1865-1985, held September 13, 1985 at Barr Street Junior High School.
Ms. McMurray’s sorority, Iota Theta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. in Lancaster, has embraced and supported the production of the Black History Contest, which portrays winners later recognized in the Anniversary Edition.
Lifetime sorority member Mary D. Henderson fondly recalls working closely with Ms. McMurray, who mentored her and developed the script for many programs. While going through the archives of Katherine Stevens, a former chapter president, she located the actual program for this competition.
Ms. McMurray served as president of the chapter’s first Debutante Cotillion on April 2, 1988 at USC Lancaster Gymnasium. The first photos are provided by Sandra Jones-Izzard, current chapter president, who had a very special relationship with Ms. McMurray and her sister, Delores Hudson, founding president of the chapter.
The Chapter continued this signature annual event, with the last in-person debut in 2018. Last year, the Chapter introduced the Pink and Green Princesses Winter Wonderland virtual contest.
Another community service project Ms. McMurray has always supported was the Young at Heart Seniors Bingo Scholarship, usually held annually at the Lancaster County Council Center on Aging.
The chapter’s other community service initiatives include annual support of the Columbus Parker Track Club, the Lancaster Unit’s NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner, and a lifetime membership in the NAACP, a special tribute to breast cancer survivors, an HBCU college fair and the awarding of three annual scholarships for high school students.
The section was very proud of the young people who participated in the Literature Comes to Life, The Arts initiative in February 2021. Each student read a book by a black author and presented a summary, including the impact on their life .
Mrs. McMurray was one of the founders of the Iota Theta Omega chapter, established on September 23, 1972. When the chapter celebrated its 10th anniversary, she wrote an article, “Sorors Observe 10th Anniversary” published March 3, 1982 in The News of Lancaster. Among the chapter positions Ms. McMurray held were recording secretary, vice president, assistant secretary and, of course, several years as a journalist.
The Iota Theta Omega Chapter will celebrate its 50th anniversary in September.
“In addition to my family, it is the cadre of this generation of sorority members like Ms. McMurray, who drives me to serve my community with dedication and to achieve the goal of making a positive difference,” says Verta W. Looper, a lifetime member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and member of the Iota Theta Omega chapter.
As we celebrate Black History Month 2022, it is truly an honor to recognize and celebrate Ms. McMurray, who left an indelible mark on local community service. The Iota Theta Omega Chapter, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, is proud to continue implementing some of the projects inspired by its commitment.
– Dr Zora Denson is director of community relations for Heath Springs and Verta Looper is secretary of the Lancaster County Women’s Democratic Council.