Oak Park’s Women Civic Improvement Club celebrates 80 Years

The Women’s Civic Improvement Club, long the heart and soul of Oak Park, will celebrate 80 years of service and support for the less fortunate Friday and Saturday.

The oldest black women’s organization west of the Mississippi began in 1936 as the Negro Women’s Civic Improvement Club to provide housing for young African American women who had migrated to Sacramento to work at McClellan Air Force Base and in defense industries.

Racial segregation made it nearly impossible for the the new arrivals to find a safe, decent place to live – even the YWCA was segregated, according to the club’s official history, “The Griot” by Grace Douglas.

In 1945, the original members joined forces with other existing Negro ladies groups to incorporate as the WCIC, which became the black cultural hub of Sacramento. Maya Angelou, Julian Bond and other famous African Americans have spoken at the club over the years.

Executive Director Segboye Davis said the club provided a refuge to women and children through the 1950s, and in 1965 launched Sacramento’s first Head Start program for low-income children and families. Today, the club has 120 diverse children ages 3 to 5 at Playmate Head Start and runs a nutrition program that provides meals to 500 low-income Head Start children ages 3 to 5, Davis said.

“Since 1936, we believe the Founding Mothers Legacy has been the beacon for all those want to follow in their footsteps, as well as paved an ambitious and attainable set of goals for yesterday, today and tomorrow’s WCIC team,” Davis said, noting that WCIC also stands for “We’re caring, involved and committed.”

The club has also hosted numerous social, political and cultural events at their headquarters at 3555 Third Ave. On Friday, the club will host an open house for networking as well as a tour of the facility from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

On Saturday, it will offer an evening of history, entertainment and refreshments from 6-8 p.m. featuring traditional drumming, saxophone player Shawn Raiford, a keynote speech by noted Sacramento historian Dr. David Covin, and dance and gospel performances. A suggested donation of $8 is asked of adults, while children under age 12 are free. For more information call 916-451-8870.

Stephen Magagnini: 916-321-1072, @SteveMagagnini