ABOVE: The Blue Triangle Community Center is located in Houston’s historic Third Ward community
There are so many iconic landmarks and crown jewels located in Houston’s historic Third Ward community, and one of them was officially founded in 1919, during World War I—it is the Blue Triangle YWCA, which was formally the first branch of Houston’s YWCA.
The Blue Triangle YWCA was birthed out of a pressing need to have a central meeting place where African American women and girls could safely meet, learn, and recreate.
On July 28, 1998, Kathy Johnson, then-Chair of the Committee on Administration for Blue Triangle Branch, presented to the Houston Metropolitan Board of Directors a letter of agreement and recommendation to keep Blue Triangle open to the community, after various branches were being sold off due to a lack of continued funding. Johnson requested that the Blue Triangle Branch YWCA Building be turned over to a newly organized entity called the Blue Triangle Multi-Cultural Association, Inc., at a cost of $1.00. This was extremely important, in that the majority of the community group that comprised this new entity were Life Members of Houston YWCA, and they desperately wanted to preserve the history, tradition, and programs that had become a staple in the Third Ward community. They also wanted to obtain the inclusive rites and ownership of the iconic art of the late Dr. John Biggers, along with the real property that was located at 2805 Berry Street in Third Ward. They were successful.
Fast forward to today, and the Blue Triangle Multi-Cultural Association (BTMCA) stands as a beacon of community strength, resilience, and cultural preservation. Its importance in the Third Ward community is multi-faceted and deeply rooted in the organization’s rich history, transformative programs, and its commitment to fostering unity.
The Blue Triangle Community Center, which is owned and operated by the Blue Triangle Multi-Cultural Association, Inc., is a Texas State Historic landmark. The building sits on property that was acquired roughly 75 years ago by ten African American women for $1,000, which was then deeded to the Y.W.C.A. to build a facility for the Blue Triangle Branch to call home.
At its core, the BTMCA is a custodian of cultural heritage, proudly preserving the legacy of the Blue Triangle Community Center, which has been a vital hub since the early 1900s. The association safeguards the stories, traditions, and contributions of the multicultural communities it serves, creating a living tapestry of shared experiences.
Beyond heritage preservation, the BTMCA plays a pivotal role in community development. It serves as a catalyst for educational initiatives, offering programs that empower individuals of all ages with knowledge, skills, and opportunities. In the past, it was a place for women seeking employment opportunities, daycare services, health clinic services, summer camps, and the like. They are continuing this legacy with space to encourage good health and fitness utilizing their gymnasium for basketball skills training, volleyball, and pickleball.
Additionally, the BTMCA has a state-of-the-art swimming pool and amenities for members of the community to learn how to swim, participate in aquatic fitness, take lifeguard certification classes, receive competitive swimmer training, and enjoy other forms of recreation.
Other pertinent workshops and services offered at the center have included financial literacy workshops, health clinics for the uninsured, health insurance, state benefit certification assistance, and celebrations of historic holidays such as Earth Day, National Senior Citizens Day, and Juneteenth. The Blue Triangle is also continuing a long history, dating back to the days of the Y.W.C.A., of hosting an annual Breakfast with Santa and Kwanzaa celebrations.
Charlotte Bryant, who serves as the Executive Director and Founder of the BTMCA, states that from the 1940s, during her middle school years, African American young girls were encouraged to become members of the YWCA.
“Our teachers encouraged us to participate in programs that included historical people and basic civic concerns,” said Bryant, who has been involved with the Blue Triangle Branch of the YWCA and now the Blue Triangle Multi-Cultural Association, Inc. for over 80 years. “Building on the values instilled at home to be a good neighbor, my affiliation with the Blue Triangle and other organizations since then, have been the vehicles through which I am able to feed my desire to serve the community, uplift underserved populations, and preserve the rich history and legacy of my community.”
Most recently, the BTMCA launched an art-focused program to encourage emerging and underrepresented local artists to be recognized and spotlighted.
The BTMCA has recently launched the Arts, Culture, and Education (A.C.E.) Program—a dynamic initiative aimed at elevating artistic expression, celebrating cultural diversity, and fostering educational opportunities at the historic Blue Triangle Community Center. This multifaceted program is designed to provide a platform for various art forms and artists, with a special emphasis on supporting local emerging talents and underrepresented artists.
One of the central objectives of the A.C.E. Program is to showcase and promote the works of artists within the vibrant Houston community, offering them a space to exhibit their creations within the iconic Blue Triangle Community Center. By doing so, the program not only enriches the cultural landscape of the community but also serves as a catalyst for emerging artists, encouraging them to view the arts as a viable and profitable career path.
The A.C.E. Program was made possible by the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs (MOCA) and the Mid-America Arts Alliance (MAAA).
At the heart of the Blue Triangle Community Center is the awe-inspiring mural titled “The Contribution of Negro Women to American Life and Education,” a masterpiece created by the internationally acclaimed artist Dr. John T. Biggers.
As the founder of the art department at Texas Southern University, Dr. Biggers’ legacy is deeply intertwined with the center’s history. The A.C.E. Program serves as a powerful tool to raise awareness about Dr. Biggers, his life, and his invaluable contributions to the world of art and education.
“This program brings to fruition my dream to raise awareness and educate the community about the mural and generate interest in learning more about Dr. Biggers’ life, contributions, and works of art,” Bryant stated, as she expressed her enthusiasm for the A.C.E. Program. “By spotlighting local artists and paying homage to a renowned figure like Dr. John T. Biggers, the A.C.E. Program stands as a beacon of creativity, education, and cultural appreciation, inviting the community to engage with the rich artistic tapestry woven within the walls of the Blue Triangle.”
Dr. Biggers holds profound significance to the Blue Triangle Multi-Cultural Association—as a visionary artist, educator, and contributor to the cultural fabric of the community. As the muralist behind the iconic artwork displayed at the Blue Triangle Community Center, Dr. Biggers’ impact resonates deeply, encapsulating the historical and artistic essence of the organization.
In 1953, Dr. Biggers painted a wall mural entitled “The Contribution of Negro Woman to American Life and Education” inside the Blue Triangle center. It was donated by Rev. Fred T. Lee in memory of his wife, Mrs. Dela Lee. The mural prominently features images of Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman. It is a masterpiece reflecting the significant role of Negro women in the history of America. The mural, which is a testament to Dr. Biggers’ talent and dedication, depicts the heroic survival of African Americans and their monumental contributions to life and education. This masterpiece is not only an artistic achievement but a narrative that aligns seamlessly with the Blue Triangle’s mission of preserving cultural heritage and promoting education. His connection to the Blue Triangle extends beyond the canvas. As an educator, Dr. Biggers imparted knowledge and inspiration, leaving an indelible mark on the artistic and intellectual landscape of the community. His influence is woven into the very fabric of the Blue Triangle’s identity, contributing to its legacy as a space for learning, creativity, and cultural celebration. Furthermore, the BTMCA’s recognition of Dr. Biggers with a designated day reflects the ongoing commitment to honor and celebrate his life and contributions.
“By designating a day in his name, the Blue Triangle pays homage to a figure whose artistic brilliance continues to inspire and enrich the lives of those who engage with his work,” said Bryant. “His mural serves as a symbolic bridge connecting the past, present, and future of the community, making his significance an integral part of the Blue Triangle’s narrative and a source of pride for all those associated with this cultural hub.”
In essence, Dr. Biggers is a cultural luminary whose artistic legacy aligns seamlessly with the Blue Triangle’s mission to preserve, celebrate, and educate.
Bryant states that engaging with the BTMCA and becoming an active participant in its vibrant community initiatives is a rewarding experience. She also states that there are several avenues through which individuals, businesses, and organizations can get involved. Those ways are:
- Membership: Consider becoming a member of the Blue Triangle Community Center. Membership not only grants access to a variety of programs but also supports the ongoing cultural and educational activities. Choose from individual or family memberships and enjoy the many benefits of being part of this dynamic community.
- Volunteer Opportunities: The BTMCA welcomes individuals interested in contributing their time and skills to volunteer. Whether assisting with events, programs, or maintenance, volunteers play a crucial role in the success of the association. Check for volunteer opportunities that align with your interests and availability.
- Attend Events: Stay connected by attending the various events hosted by the Blue Triangle. From cultural celebrations and fundraisers to educational programs, there’s something for everyone. Your attendance not only enriches your experience but also supports the organization’s mission.
- Participate in Programs: Explore the diverse range of programs offered by the Blue Triangle. Whether it’s swim classes, cultural activities, or health and wellness initiatives, participation enhances personal growth while contributing to the overall vibrancy of the community.
- Contribute Financially: Support the BTMCA through financial contributions. Donations, sponsorships, and fundraising efforts are vital for sustaining the organization’s activities and maintaining its community services. Your financial support directly impacts the success and longevity of the Blue Triangle.
- Collaborate and Partner: Businesses and organizations looking to make a positive impact in the community can explore collaboration opportunities with the Blue Triangle. Partnering with events, sponsorships, or joint initiatives strengthens community ties and fosters mutual growth.
- Spread the Word: Help amplify the reach and impact of the Blue Triangle by spreading awareness in your social circles. Share information about events, programs, and the organization’s mission through word of mouth, social media, or community networks.
Bryant states that by getting involved with the Blue Triangle Multi-Cultural Association, individuals can actively contribute to the preservation of cultural heritage, support educational endeavors, and participate in building a stronger, more connected community.
“The BTMCA’s commitment to inclusivity is evident in its diverse range of activities, embracing people of different backgrounds, ages, and interests,” said Bryant. “By providing a space for communal engagement, the association fosters a sense of belonging and unity, creating a supportive environment for personal and collective growth. Crucially, the BTMCA is not merely a historical relic but a dynamic force for positive change. Through various events, fundraisers, and collaborations, it addresses contemporary challenges faced by the community.”
Bryant emphasizes the significance of how the Living Legends Luncheon, annual fundraisers, and partnerships with organizations, reflect the dedication the BTMCA has when it comes to addressing the current needs while also honoring the past.
“The association’s emphasis on health and wellness, showcased through programs like swim classes and water aerobics, demonstrates a commitment to the community’s overall well-being. By promoting healthy lifestyles, the BTMCA contributes to the physical and mental resilience of its members,” Bryant concluded. “In essence, the BTMCA is a cornerstone of community identity, a platform for learning, and a driving force for positive transformation. Its importance lies not only in its historical significance but in its ongoing impact on the lives of individuals and the collective spirit of the community. To care about the BTMCA is to invest in the strength, vitality, and cultural richness of the community it serves, ensuring a legacy that transcends generations. Please support us and get involved.”
To learn more about the rich history of the BTMCA and to get involved and participate, please visit https://www.the-bluetriangle.org/.