Sunday, January 28, 2001

Group helping blacks acclimate

By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WEST CHESTER TOWNSHIP — The subtle and overt pressures of being a racial minority in a predominately white community have forged an African-American group that finds strength in togetherness and grass-roots activism.

        A get-acquainted dinner six years ago brought together a half-dozen African-American, West Chester couples in Butler County's most affluent and fastest growing township.

        From that informal gathering the African American Families of the West Chester Area (AAFWCA) was born, and today its more than 200 members are active in the Lakota school district, which encompasses both West Chester and adjacent Liberty Township. The group also works closely with officials in both townships, as well as with other community groups.

        Cynthia Pinchback-Hines, a founding member — now president — of AAFWCA, said the minority group wanted to ease cultural adjustments for black residents and act as an agent of change to increase racial sensitivity in the two townships, which are more than 88 percent white.

        The residential population of West Chester and Liberty townships is about 5 percent black.

        “We try to help African-Americans acclimate to the community in a positive way. I didn't want to just be a spectator in the community, but wanted us to be a part of it,” Ms. Pinchback-Hines said.

        Initially black families with children in the Lakota school district focused on education issues, she said. While those efforts continue — and have earned the praise of Lakota school officials — the group is also branching out through activities.

        Annual social events are held, and a college scholarship fund has started. Recently during AAFWCA's quarterly meeting, West Chester Township Administrator David Gully spoke to the group and later praised them for their active role.

        “They are performing a fine service to the community,” he said.

        Robin Frazier, an African-American newly arrived from California, appreciates the AAFWCA's work.

        “It's a strong link to the community, and it has been wonderful for us. We're finding that our children are able to meet other African-American children in the area where they didn't before,” Ms. Frazier said.


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