Retired teacher Don Hackney leading Black history program at Center in the Park

Tamala Edwards Image
Thursday, February 15, 2024
Art of Aging: Retired teacher Don Hackney leading Black history program at Center in the Park
Senior centers across the city have a varied list of activities to celebrate Black History Month.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Twice a month Don Hackney teaches a program he calls, "African American History and Its Effects on Today."

"I want to explain why these things happen," says Hackney.

Paid Sponsor Partnership: Philadelphia Corporation for Aging

Classes take place at Center in the Park in Germantown.

"For our members, it's an opportunity for them to talk about memories and things that they've experienced," says Cleo L. Smalls, Center Director of Center in the Park.

The senior center is one of 28 across the city that Philadelphia Corporation for Aging helps fund.

"We want to make sure that our older adults are not isolated," says Mark Kendrick, African & Caribbean Elder Initiative Coordinator for Philadelphia Corporation for Aging.

Kendrick says older adults enjoy having a space, like Center in the Park, "to build friendships and connections." Hackney says that's the purpose of his class too - to rebuild community.

"To make a connection on family again through grandparents," says Hackney.

Hackney did a special presentation for Black History Month, talking about clips from the movie "Selma" - an historical drama based on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches.

"It opens up the opportunity for older adults to connect with their cultural heritage, also to be able to learn from one another as well," says Kendrick. "Because we want people to feel that they're welcome where they are."

Discussion is a big part of the class.

"They bring so much of their wisdom through their age, because everyone in here is a senior," says Hackney.

Janice Smith says she regularly attends Hackney's class.

"He has a wonderful way of teaching us because you have to know what's going on and you have to know what you can do about it," she says.

"It's not only Black history, but Black present and Black future," says Smalls. "Older adults are so helpful. They're resources for us."

Hackney says he enjoys being in a classroom setting again after spending 27 years teaching in Philadelphia.

"I'm learning as much as they are. I love being with them," says Hackney. "I'm Mr. Hackney again."

For more information:

African American History & Its Effects on Today:

Center in the Park:

Philadelphia Corporation for Aging Senior Centers: