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Southwest Community Center Hopes to Send Powerful Messages with Black History Play

Leo Tully/WAER News

The Southwest Community Center in Syracuse has been spending time during Black History Month rehearsing an emotionally-heated play that premieres this Friday. It follows African Americans from the Civil War through today. Valerie Hill is the Director of Community Services at Syracuse Community Connections and the woman responsible for writing the play. She spoke about a pattern of unfortunate incidents that inspired her to write it.

"Talking to a lot of families in the community is what I do. And hearing the grief that they are suffering from in regards to a lot of the police brutality, the killings, the black on black crime, the selling and use of drugs, and I said you know what, we need to do something about it." 

The play is being performed this Friday at the Southwest Community Center. Hill says holding the play just after Black History Month sends a message about celebrating and making progress all year long, rather than keeping the conversation tied down to just one month of the year.  

"In order for African Americans to grow and to grow together it has to be continuous team building, continuous building communities, helping each other out, making strives, continue pushing for education and for equality and great jobs." 

Hill says the play sends specific messages about properly raising your children, or eating healthy meals. The play also sends a broader message about the power of coming together as a family, or community.

"A lot of times people are looking at the weaknesses or what they may consider as being disabilities and then we start focusing on those instead of focusing on that we need to focus on the strengths. It's just touching bases onto each of our strengths and bringing those strengths together to empower ourselves, our kids and to change this whole paradigm of things that are going on right now." 

Credit Leo Tully / WAER News
The stage inside the center where the play will be performed.

She adds that citizens can also become active role models for youth to encourage them about their education.

"I would love for people to leave after watching this play and say 'okay, yes I do need to help the kids out' and if they see kids who are not going to school they need to come out and say 'hey you kids need to go to school let me take you to school,' putting that extra foot forward and that extra step to make things a little better." 

“Blacks/African Americans in a Time of War: Then and Now” premiers on Friday, March 2 at 5:30 P.M. at the Southwest Community Center at 401 South Avenue.