HOUSTON – Upon the entrance of entering the Historic S.H.A.P.E. Community Center one of the first signs that may be seen reveals the following core beliefs.
“We believe that by developing and nurturing healthy partnerships, we will be able to continue our on-going efforts to revitalize, rebuild and strengthen our community. There has always been and there will always be a part for each of us to play in the process.
We know that the only limitations we have are those that we impose on ourselves. We further more realize that for us all to succeed in our efforts, we must call on all segments of our community to pull together in an effort to do what we must to reach our goal.”
Though the term “shape” itself has a symbolic meaning by definition according to the principles that S.H.A.P.E. Community Center was established upon, the acronym also upholds a much more broader principle within the community.
Accordingly, the abbreviation “S.H.A.P.E.” stands for (Self-Help for African People through Education). Since its inception of June 01, 1969 the S.H.A.P.E. Community Center has been committed to its ultimate objective.
Recently, S.H.A.P.E. Community Center celebrated 45 years of service to the Houston area and onward. The theme for the 45th Anniversary celebration was, “Celebrating our Past, Embracing our Present, Shaping Our Future”. A visit to S.H.A.P.E. mirrored the image that the celebration was an awesome occasion! Milton Randle, a committed partner of S.H.A.P.E. said, “There were so many auxiliaries working together for the Anniversary and it was such a grande affair.”He grinned and shared, “As a matter of fact, I received the Plaque for Elders.” He continued, “A lot of information was given by the different speakers that people really needed to hear and they spoke in a way that everyone in attendance could understand what they were saying.” Another one of the elders that was present, Ms. Mattie Perry, who has been a partner of S.H.A.P.E. for ten years said the following about the commemorative event. “The Anniversary was amazing and I enjoyed celebrating such a wonderful occasion and I pray for many more to come.” Mawiyah Buseje, who worked the event expressed that, “We worked hard, the anniversary was a great success and I am proud to have worked on this project.”
African-American News&Issues was given a chance to conduct an exclusive interview with Executive Director, Deloyd Parker who has been a part of S.H.A.P.E. since its origination. He is actually a co-founder of the institution. Over four decades ago he went to Austin and initiated the process for S.H.A.P.E. to become incorporated by securing the organization’s 501c3. During that interview Mr. Parker stated that, “People constantly want to address the individual, but at S.H.A.P.E. we don’t focus on the individual, we focus on what we call the collective.” He explained that the collective implies, “I am because we are, we are therefore I am, there’s no me without you and there’s no you without me – We are all apart of a family of interdependence.” This thought yields the truth that it is not just about one person, but that it takes a combined effort to achieve a unified goal. Throughout the years, Parker has proven through his tireless efforts and relentless commitment to the community that he is true to this thought and theory. With a warming personality, modest character and despite all of the hard work and loyalty that he has dedicated to S.H.A.P.E.; he is not willing to make a boast of himself. Instead he praises those that support, volunteer and contribute of themselves to the Center. He said, “Oftentimes, the enemy wants you to get the big-head so that you will think that it’s all you, but in actuality it’s a collective.” He shared, “It is the staff, hundreds of volunteers, children, elders and the board – these are the ones that make it possible.” In fact he went on to say, “The collective is what allowed us to celebrate the 45th Anniversary. Because we celebrated the past, but embraced the present because we have to shape our future.” As the interview continued, Mr. Parker explained how S.H.A.P.E. was birthed out of the Civil Rights, Black Liberation and Black Power Movements and experiences such as these.
He recollected that over 45 years ago, “We recognized that we could protest and we could demonstrate and we could do all those things that we did in the past – but if we didn’t create an institution that was comprised of families strengthening and empowering then we were just wasting our time.”
He informed that it is imperative that families are strong. Furthermore he stated that it helps to have a support system, especially when it consists of your family. It’s about our families and how strong they are.
He revealed, “Even in protesting my mother and father have always supported me, my brothers and sisters have too – because I have a strong family and they understood that I needed their support. If you don’t have family support you will waiver and it will be difficult or rather more difficult.” Mr. Parker expressed that, “S.H.A.P.E was born out of struggle and that struggle defined for us a need of having strong families; so that’s why we started S.H.A.P.E. It is important that we seek and tend to the various needs of our families especially as it relates: socially, culturally, economically, spiritually, politically and nutritionally.”
Thus, S.H.A.P.E. has devised and implemented programs that were developed to assist in those very areas; which will embrace those concepts that will serve to promote strong families which equates to a strong nation.
A list of some of the programs and services offered by Shape are: an After School/ Summer Enrichment Program, Parenting Support Program, Harambee Academic Quiz Bowl, Annual Pan-African Cultural Festival, Annual Kwanzaa celebrations, Pump Up The Power (a youth leadership program), Fruit and Vegetable Cooperative, Gathering of the Elders meeting, Wholistic Health Program, African Dance and Drumming classes, Youth and Adult Computer classes, Legal Assistance clinics, forums for community issues, Annual Freedom Tour, voter registration, tobacco prevention, Death Penalty Abolition Movement, Home Site for the Association of Black Social Workers, drug treatment referral, “The S.H.A.P.E. Of The Gambia”, Association of Black Social Psychologists and the Vegan Cafe, Sister of S.H.A.P.E and the Elders Institute of Wisdom, just to list a few.
A stroll down memory lane produced characters such as: Clarence Brandley (Clarence Brandley Coalition), Joanne Gavin (Death Penalty Abolition Movement), Jew Don Boney, Ada Edwards, Mayor Lee P. Brown amongst so many other politicians, organizers and activists who have came through S.H.A.P.E. and or received help from S.H.A.P.E in regards to their varying causes. Parker spoke about the “Roll to the Polls” initiative that was spearheaded by S.H.A.P.E. It was an effort whereas S.H.A.P.E was able to get residents to go out to the polls and vote. Parker explained, “We didn’t have to tell people to get to the polls, we just had to get them there and that is what we were able to do.”
After talking with Parker it became quite clear that S.H.A.P.E has not existed within the community and just remained idle. It has been involved with a wide range of movements and causes within these last 45 years. He declared that S.H.A.P.E supported the trial of 26-year-old Byron Gillum, who was shot several times by Scott Tschirhart, a Houston Police Department officer in 1989. The movement to achieve justice for him was initiated at S.H.A.P.E. Parker stated, “We left Houston and went to Dallas for the trial where they had a change of venue and packed the court room and those officers were convict.” He believes, had they not gone those officers probably would not have been convicted.
“Down through the years there have been a great deal of movements that have given life and meaning to S.H.A.P.E.”said Parker. He continued, “The first city-wide Kwanzaa celebration was started at S.H.A.P.E. and it is still going strong. Even so, it’s grown bigger than Shape. We moved from the S.H.A.P.E. Community Center Celebration to Greater Houston Area Kwanzaa Committee. Now various representatives come from all over the city to meet and plan those seven nights of Kwanzaa.”
For more information or details about activities or events at the S.H.A.P.E. Community Center stop by the Family Center located at 3813 Live Oak, 77004, contact number (713) 521-0641; Administrative Office is located at 3903 Almeda Rd., 77004, contact number (713) 521-1185; or visit their website at www.shape.org
African-American News&Issues salutes S.H.A.P.E. Community Center for 45 years of excellent service provided to the members of our community and we look forward to experiencing many, many more productive years with the Shape Community Center.