Working with South Dallas Cultural Center opened my mind to the history and culture of African American communities and why they matter. As an intern, I was able to be a part of all aspects of the center. From welcoming students in the morning and assigning them to their respective destinations, to assisting instructors with plans, organizing events, fieldtrips, offering counsel to students, engaging in intellectual conversations, learning salsa, Spanish songs, pan African ideals and many more. To the best of my knowledge and experience the Cultural Center summer program achieved two main goals. Firstly, it pieces together trails of African roots and the influence of African culture on many other cultures in other to give young children whose ancestors were robbed of their roots a sense of being and belonging.
Secondly, it’s the only place in south Dallas that serves as a camping, artistic and fun experience for children in low- and middle-income neighborhoods. The theme for the summer educated the children on the influence of African on Puerto- Rico lifestyle, it covered the culture of dance, theatre, rituals, writing, learning Spanish and many more. In addition, the artistic cultural environment served as an escape for many, they were able to express themselves artistically, they shared difficulties and personal struggles, they opened-up to friends, teachers… it was a liberating experience. Last year I worked with SEPA to write grants for non-profit organizations, I was assigned to a performing arts organization in a better off income community.
I found myself comparing my experiences with both places; For example, Last year, parents were actively involved and helped make homemade meals for activities, some children could afford the camps and those who didn’t were eligible for financial aid. The cultural center in Dallas was open to all students for free, parents involved themselves as much as their every day schedule permitted, the center took care of feeding and everything else. An older lady (Mrs. Clark) who has been a part of the center from the beginning told several stories of how hard they had to fight to get the organization up and running, for funding, for the government to see its benefits in the community. By the end of the summer, a show was put together there was cultural food. The children showcased the dance, rituals, acting, language and experiences they shared. Goodbyes were shared and that was the only sad part.
Did you know that there is a Landmark and Park in Dallas called FREEDMAN’S CEMETERY where the remnants of over 12000 slaves were buried? It holds statues and poems that accurately convey the violations and struggles of slave men and women.
CULTURAL CENTERS hold information and knowledge the world constantly ignores.