“Very few people want to step up to the plate to help our children in the city of Duquesne and that is what we do,” said Marlene Wallington, president of the Phyllis Wheatley Literary Society.
The Phyllis Wheatley Literary Society was organized in 1934 by Judge Lillian Walker-Burke and six other women, all high school graduates, joined in chartering the organization. Named after gifted Black Poetess Phyllis Wheatley, the organization was originally created to promote better reading habits and skills among young women.
Throughout the years the group has awarded numerous annual scholarships and has provided more than 100 cash rewards to college freshmen from Duquesne and surrounding areas. The Phyllis Wheatley Scholarship is under the auspices of the Pittsburgh Foundation.
Wallington said the Phyllis Wheatley Literary Society gives out two scholarships a year.
“We help the students with books during the second semester of their first year of college after we see their grades,” said Wallington who has served as the organization’s president since 2002. “We send the money to the Pittsburgh Foundation and they dispense the money to the students.”
One of the events the Phyllis Wheatley Society uses to raise funds for the scholarship is its annual Honor and Salute Day banquet. The event, which was held at the Georgetown Center in Pleasant Hills, paid homage to some of the Mon Valley’s most prominent people: Ocie Paige from the McKeesport NAACP; Clairton Attorney Burrell Brown; the Boys and Girls Club’s Pat Bluett; Educator Aralessa Bush and Volunteer Calvina Harris-Tudor.
“These people have helped people in various ways throughout their lives and that’s what we are all about. Our motto is ‘honor above all and excellence and I have a great bunch of about 20 ladies working with me in Phyllis Wheatley,” said Wallington who resides in Duquesne.
In addition to the scholarships, the literary society helps with other civic causes as well including sponsoring a youth center in the city, holding junior and senior proms for Black graduates. It has also supported the Red Cross, United Negro College Fund, Sickle Cell Fund, McKeesport Hospital and the fund to restore Fredrick Douglass’ house to national prominence.
“We just want to put our name out there and let people know what we do,” Wallington said.
Anyone interested in learning more about the Phyllis Wheatley Literary Society or joining in its fundraising efforts may contact Wallington at 412-466-9530.
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