Hispanics impacting African-Americans


Years ago, Carol Perry, Syracuse business woman and community activist referred me to Jenny Pennington. I had a problem that refused to lend itself to an easy solution. The more I tried to figure out a way around it, the more complicated it became. Back in the eighties, my limited expertise in computer and information technology made it difficult at times to complete tasks involving the use of typewriters and computers. I was in the process of finishing the manuscript of a book I had co-written with General Davis.

“Go and see Jenny at the Southwest side Community Center. She’ll take care of that problem” said Carol Perry

I heeded that advice and off to the Southside I went. She wasn’t difficult to find, and to make a long story short, she solved my problem. That manuscript became the book, FREE FROM DEATH ROAD, the story of General Davis, a Syracuse African-American ex-gangster that was published a few years ago. Jenny has since become one of my reliable sources for help when faced with any problem that calls for knowledge of computers and information technology. And also someone I consider a friend.

When I decided on the above as the theme on which to focus this article, one name came to my mind immediately. B. Gonazalez. Anyone writing about people of Hispanic heritage who have emerged into prominence in the Syracuse community almost has no choice but chose or include B. Gonzalez.  She has made history in Syracuse. In her current position as a leading administrator at the University College of Syracuse University; she is, without doubt, one of a few Hispanics to hold such a high position in academia, and certainly unique for accomplishing such a feat.  Add to it the fact that she was until recently, the president of the City Council, and considered a potential mayor of Syracuse. She is just the type of person.

But then it struck me I also know another female in the community with the same ethnic background and heritage as B. Gonzalez, but who is less public, yet in many ways as unique and remarkable in what she has accomplished in the Syracuse community. And her name is Jenny Pennington, and she still works at the Southwest Community Center.

I have to admit it’s easier to focus on Jenny because I know her personally. I have interacted with her over the years and have admired her for her willingness to help out. I also know people who have known her for a long time and they have nothing but praise for her. Carol Perry is one. As I have mentioned earlier.

Jenny, is in my opinion, a success story for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that she appears to have succeeded in making herself a part of the African-American community and has done so without alienating herself from others. By others, I am referring to the fact that Jenny is Latino.

If she doesn’t tell you, there is no way you will notice anything different in terms of her ethnic or cultural orientation. Nomenclature wise, she leaves you clueless. Jenny is as American a name you can think of, isn’t it? And it is not just her first name. The surname is just as American. I didn’t pick up on it the first time I met her that she has a Latino connection I found out years later, and it was even inferred in a conversation by someone who knew about and assumed I also knew.

Has she made a conscious effort to maintain a low profile with her Latino connection, and is that the reason why she has succeeded in making such inroads into the African-American community?

I don’t think so. I am inclined to believe Jenny made no such special effort to mainstream. More than likely, she just went with the flow. She got a job at the Southwest Community Center because she was qualified and was hired on the basis of her credentials. She took up residence in the neighborhood that is in close proximity to her job and has not found an easy excuse to move else where over the years. That’s about it and nothing more. At least, that’s what I believe.

Interestingly enough, those same factors have contributed to making her story one of the more successful ones; that she has gained total acceptance in the African-American community and is today widely recognized for playing an important role making things happen at the leading community center in the Syracuse African-American community.

It doesn’t really mater what her heritage is. What is important is the fact that Jenny has become an asset to the African-American community in more ways than one; as a mother, grandmother and just as significant, as the main person to talk to when you go to the Southwest Community Center of Syracuse.


Kofi Quaye is a book-writer from Africa and a newspapers-writer,

that has become a regular for the CNY Latino, with interesting articles

Kofi Quaye can be contacted at 315-471-7899 or 315-396-3942,

or E-mail: kqgh@aol.com

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