Special to the New Journal and Guide
The history of the historic I.C. Norcom High School will be taking center stage this weekend during the 8th Grand Reunion celebrating 145 years of Academic, Athletic, and Musical excellence. Events take place September 29-30 at the Renaissance Hotel in Portsmouth and October 1 at Zion Baptist Church.
The Grand Reunion pays tribute to the school’s history which was originally the Chestnut Academy Street School founded in 1878.
Thus, I.C. Norcom is the second oldest pre-desegregation-era high school in the nation, according to Leah Stith.
Before desegregation, according to Stith, the President of the Alumni Association which is organizing the reunion, I.C. Norcom was once one of 115 all-Black high schools in Virginia.
Now Portsmouth’s I.C. Norcom and Norfolk’s Booker T. Washington High Schools are the two remaining pre-desegregation Historically Black High Schools in Virginia.
Stith said more than 500 alumni dating from 1945 to 2023 are expected to attend events during the weekend.
Four recent graduates of the school will be honored, she said. Their recognition is being done to assure that future generations will carry on the legacy and recognition of the school’s history.
Also, attending the reunion will be leaders of the Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic League, which once administered the sporting events among Black junior and senior high varsity sports programs before desegregation.
“This event is extremely important at a time when people, even our people who do not know or accept our history, are trying to erase it,” said Stith. “We go back as far as the Chestnut Street Academic which started in 1878.”
Key highlights of the Grand Reunion include an escorted Motorcade; a wreath-laying ceremony at the grave of Mr. Israel Charles Norcom at Fisher’s Hill Cemetery; and a “Meet and Greet” at the Renaissance Hotel.
On September 30, the 8th Grand Reunion Celebration Gala and Banquet and Greyhound Awards program will start at 7 p.m.
The following day, on October 1, the weekend will conclude with a Sunday worship service at Zion Baptist Church in Portsmouth at 11 a.m.
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