As Black History Month comes to a close, the youth and staff at the BCFS Health and Human Services San Antonio Transition Center look back on the events, activities and exhibits that made a profound impact on teens and youth overcoming hardships – and those that serve them. “A lot of the youth we serve simply don’t know about their culture, their histories and their backgrounds,” said Tramelle Jones, BCFS’ Texas Workforce Advocate. “They need a reminder of that, and for a month we enjoyed making it a priority.”
Black History Month Highlights Heroes, Cinema and Cuisine at
BCFS Health and Human Services San Antonio Transition Center
SAN ANTONIO – As Black History Month comes to a close, the youth and staff at the BCFS Health and Human Services San Antonio Transition Center look back on the events, activities and exhibits that made a profound impact on teens and youth overcoming hardships – and those that serve them.
“A lot of the youth we serve simply don’t know about their culture, their histories and their backgrounds,” said Tramelle Jones, BCFS’ Texas Workforce Advocate. “They need a reminder of that, and for a month we enjoyed making it a priority.”
The BCFS Health and Human Services San Antonio Transition Center helps youth from the foster care and juvenile justice systems, and other youth struggling to transition to adulthood and self-sufficiency. Teens and youth frequent the center to meet with their case manager or mentor, receive counseling, use the computer lab and to socialize with friends. During Black History Month, these youth were surrounded – literally, on all four walls of the center’s common area – by exhibits showcasing African-American leaders throughout history.
One wall showcases scientists, like botanist and inventor Booker T. Washington, NASA astronaut Mae Carol Jemison, and almanac author and farmer Benjamin Banneker. Another wall highlights prominent Black women like Maya Angelou, Michelle Obama and Condoleezza Rice, and another displays sports and entertainment stars, like Jackie Robinson, Jesse Owens and Oprah Winfrey.
The youth enjoyed several movie nights in February, beginning with the biographical documentary, Venus and Serena, about the Williams sisters’ mercurial rise in professional tennis. Subsequent movie nights featured Selma, about the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.-led march in 1965 Alabama for voting rights, and Boycott, about the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott sparked by Rosa Parks’ legendary decision to sit in the Whites Only section of the bus in 1955.
“Through these Black History Month events, even our staff were able to relive and remember,” said Tramelle, as she described discussions with Becky Brooks (BCFS’ partner and DFPS State PAL Coordinator) sharing memories of riding segregated city buses as a young girl in 1950s Detroit.
Power of Literature
Books by African-American authors were prominently displayed at BCFS’ exhibit. BCFS Aftercare Case Manager Bonnie Scott observed several youth intrigued, and even surprised, by some of the titles.
“One of our young men, Gilbert, noticed Tupac’s book, The Rose That Grew from Concrete, and was amazed that we had that book in the display,” Bonnie says. “He said that it was awesome to come here and find that title.”
Scott watched as Gilbert flipped through another book on display – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists.
Interestingly, one book, Essence: 25 Years Celebrating Black Women, features Stacey Reynosa (neé Gunthorpe), BCFS PAL Training Facilitator who was ranked the United States’ seventh-best gymnast in 1988 when she was just 17 years old.
Feeding Your Soul
With food an integral part of every culture, BCFS organized Black History Month’s Soul Food to You potluck lunch for youth and staff on February 24.
“Soul food is now somewhat of a comfort food in the African-American culture,” Tramelle says, adding that during slavery, slaves were often given cast-off, fattier cuts of meat and less-desired vegetables to cook, which is how several classic soul food dishes came to be.
The luncheon included macaroni and cheese, tamales, fried chicken, collard greens, corn bread and doughnuts. Tamales might not be considered traditional soul food, but Tramelle says that was part of the fun.
“We asked staff to bring a dish that answered the question, ‘what is the food that nourishes your body and soul?’” said Tramelle. “The real significance of soul food is the fellowship; the time for us to get together, to connect and talk. It’s about sharing those warm, fuzzy feelings that come with food for us.”
Inclusion and Inspiration
The goal of BCFS’ Black History Month exhibit is to expose youth to the stories of African Americans who changed the course of history, culture, politics, and the arts. Tramelle said that while most youth don’t explicitly vocalize their thoughts about the exhibit, she celebrates their subtle interactions with it.
“The strongest currency our youth have is time, so when we see them here, looking at the exhibits, or watching one of the movies, we know that we’re making an impact. Our goal this month was to teach inclusion – showing how we are all included in the things that make this country great.”
Aaron, a BCFS youth who stopped at the center to examine the exhibit of “Amazing Women,” echoed Tramelle’s sentiments.
“One thing I’ve learned is that no matter if you’re Black, White, Asian, Latino, Middle Eastern, we’re all people,” Aaron said. “I put my hope in humanity, because when we come together, the sky’s the limit for our society.”