July 7th, 2023

My Visit with Southside Community Center

As I stand outside the 100-year-old building, I admire the view of 4 young ladies engaging in a discussion about where to get their braids done-one had faux locs and one had box braids with her baby hairs slicked down just perfectly, one running after a toddler, another waving hello to an elderly woman walking across the street. Also, taking in the bustling of the after school program children making their way into the building. It was familiar, it felt like home.

I decided to meet with Southside Community Center because we were in need of a relationship reset. In my new role as Chief Inclusion & Community Engagement Officer, it is important to me that community organizations, especially minority-led, view the Community Foundation as a resource and a partner. In the lobby was 2 teens and an older gentleman well-known for his cooking, ‘Papi’. He said, “I know you, I’ll be back a little later with some fish, I will bring you some.” I was welcomed with a warm hug by Chavon, and immediately started on a walking tour of the facility.

10-15 children hovered around a table eating a nutritious snack of celery and dip. Making our way through the building, I admired the reminders on the walls related to freedom, black love, resiliency, and our history. The walls are adorned with murals, pictures, paintings, and framed art to draw you in and wanting to learn more. I saw children in the computer room engaging in deep discussions and the cook preparing dinner…fried chicken.

Since its incorporation in 1934, the Southside Community Center continues to affirm, empower, and foster the development of self-pride among our African-American community, especially our youth. Through forums and activities in education, recreation, political and social awareness, the Southside Community Center is a community resource center at its core. Through their curriculum, the children develop a strong sense of identity and self-worth. Understanding their black heritage provides a foundation for a positive self-image, instilling pride in their cultural background and fostering a sense of belonging. This knowledge helps children navigate their racial identity with confidence and resilience in a world that may present challenges or misconceptions about their heritage. Southside is getting these children ready for the world.

This site visit helped me recognize the value of strengthening one’s cultural identity and embrace the beauty of cultural perspectives and experiences. I left with stronger ties, hope for continued collaborations, a belly full of fried chicken, and a bag of fish from Papi…it was a good day!

Written by, Gloria Coicou, Chief Inclusion & Community Engagement Officer