Temple student organization partners with YMCA for Black History Celebration

The Lansdowne YMCA welcomed community members of all ages to dance, make art projects and listen to poetry connected to black history.

Nicolle Majette and Trisanna Samuels, two members of Temple Ramajay, teach community members a West Indian dance routine at the Lansdowne YMCA on Feb. 23. | MATTHEW STROUT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

As the director of community services for the Student Organization for Carribean Awareness at Temple University, Tynecia Wilson is passionate about expanding her Carribean culture both on and beyond campus.

Wilson, a senior Spanish major, is a Zumba instructor at the Lansdowne YMCA and helped host a Black history celebration event on Feb. 23. The event was a collaboration with SOCA, a student organization that promotes awareness for Carribean nations and their cultures at Temple and the surrounding community. 

“I am actually really happy that they are doing this,” Wilson said. “This event is going to be about educating and promoting and really showing the black culture, which is something that isn’t really showcased at organizations like them”

The event featured family-oriented activities including art, dance and poetry workshops. 

The art workshop was themed on African American inventors. Attendees were tasked to make stop lights from graham crackers and M&M’s to honor Garrett Morgan, an African American inventor who created one of the first stoplights in 1923, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.

Organizers also showed the participants the quilt-code system used in the underground railroad, where quilt designs were used to give information to enslaved Africans about safe houses and routes. This included a brief history of the quilt making operation, as well as descriptions of what the codes mean at each art station.

Ramajay, a West Indian student dance organization, led the dance workshops with a mix of African, Carribean and modern hip-hop dance styles. 

Lisa Richardson, a retired nurse, was happy to see college students running the programs, she said.

“It’s nice to see students going out and learning about our history and then sharing with us,” Richardson said. 

Richardson said her experience was far different when she learned about African American history in the United States. 

“In my case, my grandmother and parents talked a little bit about black history but I became more aware as an adult,” Richardson said. 

Richardson said children now have more inclusivity in schools which gives them an advantage in understanding black history.

Jacqueline Fagioli, an elementary school teacher from Drexel Hill, attended the event with her husband and their adopted son because it would be educational for the family, she said. 

“Benjamin is African American and my husband and I are both white, so we wanted to make sure he is culturally exposed to people of his own skin and we need to learn as much as possible as parents,” Fagioli said. 

Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, from Pennsylvania’s 5th District, and Pennsylvania State Senator Timothy Kearney attended the event. Scanlon said that she tries to look for community events to attend that bring her constituents together. 

“It’s really nice when we can have the students come and interact with the community, and vice versa,” Scanlon said. “Especially when you have folks that are talented and are really pursuing something like them and being able to bring that expertise to the community is just awesome.”

With all the moving parts and coordination with other groups like the YMCA and Ramajay, Wilson’s confidence in how things would turn out okay was never broken, she said.

“This is my culture, so I knew what would be cool to show,” Wilson said.

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