When Inda Allen died at 16 from a blood clot, Bean Creek, a historically African-American neighborhood in the mountains of northeast Georgia, lost not just a scholar, athlete, fashion model, and soul-stirring vocalist, but also a symbol of hope.
“Inda was way beyond her time in realizing that black and white people need to work together as a family,” says Sabrina Dorsey, who received the first scholarship from the fund established in her friend’s honor. “Because of Inda, who extended her generosity and loyalty to everybody, white and black friends could go to each other’s homes, really for the first time. She was a bridge that unified us. We were still riding separate school-buses at the time.”
The high school junior died in 1987; the White County school system did not desegregate its bus system until 1990.
Allen was quick to lend clothes, money, and comfort, and she once won a talent show by singing “We Shall Overcome” in a crystalline, a capella voice that hushed the rowdy cafeteria. She was a choir stand-out at Bean Creek Missionary Baptist Church, which established the Inda Allen Scholarship Fund to support African-American students with ties to the community’s families.
A way to heal
Administered by a board of eight members, the fund provides annual scholarships of $1,500 to a recent high school graduate; $1,000 for vocational-technical instruction; and $1,000 to a nontraditional student who is going back to school later in life. Among the largest local awards at White County’s academic banquet, they are underwritten by churches in the Sautee-Nacoochee Valley and an annual pot-luck dinner and silent auction for Thanksgiving — “when we eat together, pray together, and reflect on the past year,” says board member Nara Sellers Allen.
“Inda was academically motivated and committed to giving back to her community,” she says. “So we look for applicants who demonstrate her ideals and ambition. Part of the criteria is an essay about what education means to them and what they plan to give back. We also like for them to update us later on with progress reports, to let us know how they’re doing.”
A legacy of pride
Dorsey used her scholarship to study computer processing.
“I think Inda would be amazed and proud that, all of these years later, her memory is still helping people better themselves,” she says. “She was so dedicated to helping people. I miss what she stood for.”