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Tucson woman heads effort to revitalize Dunbar School - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

Tucson woman heads effort to revitalize Dunbar School

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TUCSON- Dunbar School, once the Old Pueblo’s only segregated school completed in 1918, is undergoing a transformation.

Dunbar School, located just off Main and 2nd St., served as the only place for Tucson's African-American children to attend school. The school was named after African-American poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar.

The segregation of Arizona schools ended in 1951, leading to a name change – John Spring Junior High, the building that now houses Dunbar Barber Academy and the Barbara Williams Dance Studio.

The school officially closed in 1978.

Debi Chess Mabie is now helping leading efforts to revitalize the Dunbar Pavilion.

Mabie previously served as the executive director of the Arts Foundation for Tucson and Southern Arizona.

The University of Arizona College Of Social and Behavioral Sciences and the Dunbar Coalition selected Mabie to serve as a Community Impact Fellow for the next two years.

"Structures like this that symbolize a separate way of living need to stay standing but also be transformed into adaptive reuse to a more positive way of how we live together in this community and thrive,” Mabie said.

The goal is to enhance the space and attract organizations to occupy the renovated classrooms.

"The idea is that the space will be fully occupied and fully animated with arts, culture, health and well being activities,” Mabie said.

Providing economic development and civic engagement opportunities are also crucial aspects of the overall mission.

"That's always been one of my goals is just to make feel people good about living,” said Martio Harris, who runs the Dunbar Barber Academy.

Harris has no plans to watch history rot away.

The Dunbar Coalition has coordinated with former U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe and current U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva to secure federal funding for renovations.

Approximately $1.5 million is needed to complete the desired enhancements.

"Until we do get help, we put our blood, sweat and tears 10-foot down and we're going to get it done but hopefully we can get help from people who love what we do around here,” Harris said. 

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