Creating opportunities to understand and further teach the Palmyra community about African American culture has been a goal of the township’s borough council over the last two years.
Last year, council began an annual tradition of celebrating black history during the month of February, as the month is noted nationally. At one event Feb. 16, Palmyra residents gathered at the township community center to see The Universal African Dance and Drum Ensemble.
“I think everyone who came to the event thoroughly enjoyed it,” said Michele Wright-Sykes, scheduling coordinator at the center. “We started our black history celebration last year and it was very successful,” she added.
“We wanted to make sure we had something in our community that speaks to our African American community and celebrate black history in general. This time, we chose this forum because it speaks to the communication of African American dance and the way African Americans communicated through music.”
During the first black history celebration last year, the Palmyra community watched a presentation about Harriet Tubman and learned about the Underground Railroad and its connection to several homes in Palmyra. The program was well received, but this year the borough council and community center wanted to take a different approach.
According to Wright-Sykes, the 2020 presentation was more upbeat and artistic. The show allowed residents to learn more about the history of African Americans that may not necessarily be taught in the mainstream.
“We had one lady that came and I asked her how she heard about it. She said she saw it on our website, but she was actually from Mt. Laurel,” said Wright-Sykes. “She said she really enjoyed it and that they didn’t have anything in her area and that she wished they did. She was glad she was able to get here and take part in our presentation.
“Our seniors who also come on a regular basis really enjoyed it and said they wanted us to bring them back,” Wright-Sykes added.
Moving forward, she, the community center and the borough council want to continue bringing interesting performances to the community center to further explore African American culture. Wright-Sykes believes in teaching youth so they can carry on the traditions, history and culture of African Americans.