Consider some of the many activities Delphine Snipes was involved in. It would be hard not to conclude that she cared deeply about her community. Over the years, Snipes was part of numerous efforts aimed at benefiting the Charleston area.
Some will recall her work with the Summerville Race Relations Committee, 2006 Palmetto Leadership Program, Alston Heritage Foundation, MOJA Arts Festival, Murray United Methodist Church and the Black Church Week of Prayer, just to name a few.
“She was passionate about people in the community working together and being informed about issues,” says her sister, Marie Greene. “She always thought you should learn the ins and outs of important issues in order to make sound decisions. Her thing was that if you got involved early and went to meetings, you could be proactive rather than reactive.
Snipes, who was born June 12, 1951, died March 6, also loved planning social events and festivals, Greene says. That provided opportunities to make friends with diverse groups of people. She learned about different cultures and loved sampling ethnic foods.
“I don’t think she met too many strangers,” says Greene, who recalls that her sister was like that throughout her life.
What Greene and Snipes’ daughter, Dama Thomas, remember well is how important young people were to Snipes, once a special education teacher’s assistant at Gregg Middle School in Summerville.
Snipes once said during an interview that she found making a difference in children’s lives the most fulfilling thing about her job.
She always saw respecting all children and teaching them the skills that would enable them to respect themselves as critical, they say.
Snipes would say: “Children are our sponges. You don’t label them, but work with them because they can learn and be productive. You have to meet their needs, not just push them through the system.”
Snipes brought compassion and a degree in social work from South Carolina State University to bear on challenges that children were facing both in and out of school.
“A lot of little kids came to her in school for advice,” says her daughter. “Some would ask her what they should do about problems they were having at home. She asked a lot of questions to make sure she knew what was going on with a child. Then she would tell them to talk to their parents, or she would talk to them at school.”
Sometimes, Snipes was simply the ear they needed, Thomas says. While she was widely known as a good public speaker, some also were fortunate enough to have known her as an excellent listener.
Her time and patience were not just available to those outside the home. Her natural gifts, an easy smile and an open hand, benefited those close to her as well.
“Basically, when I was pregnant, she did not look at it in a bad way, she looked at it in a good way,” says Thomas, a single mother. “The most important things I got from her then were love and attention and a place to lay my head.
“She was a very good grandmother. She helped my child with everything. She gave her everything that she wanted, but she disciplined Trinity when she needed it.”
When Thomas thinks of her mother, she also recalls the simple things she already misses.
Snipes had great cooking skills, which relatively few knew about. “Sometimes she would cook white rice, collard greens and fried chicken,” Thomas says. “... Mostly on Sundays, she would cook and it was good. It was very good.”
And the mother who dreamed of becoming a high-fashion model in her youth, was a pretty smart dresser, too.
“She wore ... a pair of dress pants and a nice shirt. ... And she had a lot of necklaces, mostly pearls,” Thomas says.
“She taught me to be strong and take care of myself. She told me every day that you should never let anybody tell you what you can’t do. You can do anything if you put your mind to it. It’s OK to be different. It does not matter what you look like or what your skin color is, we are all special in some kind of way.”
She was proud of being the cousin of actor Wesley Snipes and always remembered the day she attended the wrap party for the movie “New Jack City,” in which he starred.
Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705.
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