Bridgeport community and civil rights activist remembered
BRIDGEPORT — The community said goodby Saturday to educator and civil rights advocate Alyce Laurayne Farrar-James.
James, 92, passed away on May 6 at St. Joseph’s Manor Care and Rehabilitation Center in Trumbull. A service for her was held on Saturday.
A Bridgeport native, James was living in Richmond, Virginia, in 1962 when she became a local coordinator for Dr. Martin Luther King, and helped to desegregatie the largest hotel in the South, the John Marshall Hotel, when King held a three day convention there.
James returned to Bridgeport in the mid-1970’s where she served on the City Council in the East End. She fought to eliminate Mount Trashmore —a three acre illegal dump on Central Avenue.
Her mother, Alice, was the first African American to attend Bridgeport High school in 1909, graduating in 1913. Her aunt, Lillian Whiting, is believed to have been Bridgeport’s and Connecticut’s first African American teacher. Her older sister, Geraldine Johnson, became the Bridgeport’s first African American schools superintendent.
In the early 1980’s James taught first grade in Bridgeport Public Schools.
She made two efforts to get schools named after her aunt, Lillian Whiting Hamilton. The first was a new school built at the corner of Lexington and North Avenues in 2007, which eventually was named after her sister, Geraldine Johnson. More recently, she lobbied in 2018 to have Harding High School renamed after Hamilton, when the high school building was replaced.
Although she was a 1943 graduate of Harding, James argued that children need to know their history.
Advocating with her to rename Harding was Sauda Baraka, a former chair of the city school board.
Baraka called James an activist of the highest order, who was a confidant, friend and “comrade in the struggle.”
“I met her almost four decades ago,” Baraka recalled. “She was suave, confident, poised, and certainly beautiful. She exuded what Maya Angelo would later pen a phenomenal woman. She was always on right side of the question or issue.”
Baraka called her part of a generation of revolutionaries that can not be replicated.
”She set the goal line for us to strive to right the wrongs, to tackle the tough issues, to be fearless,” Baraka said.
In an online post, Carmen McPherson, an assistant principal in the district, called James a bright star amidst a sea of darkness and a fighter to the end always wanting what was right for the children.
“A true revolutionary,” McPherson said, who got sharper with age.
Former State Rep. Hector Diaz, called James a voice the community needed.
“I am truly blessed to have had her as a friend and mentor,” Diaz wrote of James.
James was predeceased by her husband and leaves behind three sons. She also has two surviving sisters.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Alyce Laurayne Farrar-James Scholarship.