'Don't be bitter, be better'

. February 1, 2013.

Not many people can say they are spending their time doing exactly what they feel they were “put in this world to do.” But Nina Parker is. Aside from being a wife, mother and grandmother, she’s
busy bringing cultural awareness and acceptance to the Findlay community as founder and executive director of the Black Heritage Library and Multicultural Center.

At the Center, Nina educates visitors about black history through art, artifacts, books, audio and visual tools from all over the world. Since the Black Heritage Library’s opening in 1982, Nina, her husband, Darnell and two sons, Darnell Jr. and Burgess, have built a place to support a multicultural world where people can learn and experience the beauty of other places without leaving the Findlay area. The biggest inspiration for the library, though, was Nina’s late mother, Stella Sherard, who Nina says was the “wind beneath my wings.”

“My mother used to say ‘Don’t be bitter, be better,'” Nina says. “I’m very grateful to her because she had a great respect for people no matter what the color of their skin.” Her parents had reason to be bitter after growing up in Mississippi during a time of tumultuous civil rights struggles for African-Americans. Nina’s mother reminded her that she would find good and bad people in all places. “She would say ‘Align yourself with the
way that people think and not the way they look and then you will find your true friend.’ That has stayed with me — that’s powerful.”

Nina recalls her own childhood in Findlay, saying she was sometimes mistreated with name-calling, which only fueled her fire, driving her to make a difference for this generation of minority students. It is important for others
to understand people of different backgrounds, she says, but it is just as important for minority children to take pride in their heritage.

“We do live in a world where there is prejudice and discrimination,” Nina acknowledges. “But I say to our community, if you will just take a moment to step into this goldmine; come open the doors of the Black Heritage Library, and be amazed and overwhelmed. It’s the responsibility of the education system to make sure that students get the opportunity. Call it an adventure.”

Along with its other functions, the Black Heritage Library also holds annual events to promote cultural awareness including a Hispanic-Latino festival, an All American Girl doll party and Multicultural Celebration where creativity
takes different forms for one similar purpose: to help people understand where others different from them came from and why it’s special. Ultimately, that is Nina’s goal.

The Black Heritage Library, 817 Harmon St. 419-423-4954.

Fun Facts
Children: Darnell Jr., 35, and Burgess, 30
Graduated from: Defiance College, with a degree in business administration Favorite places in Findlay: Cedar Valley Café, the Bistro, Senior Center for volunteering
Favorite saying: Do unto others as you would have them do to you
Favorite memory with Black Heritage Library: Being honored with a Governor’s Award in 2002