Shalmeka Sweet is a long-time South Phoenix resident, and the daughter of two parents who were both born and raised in South Phoenix. She is the Counseling & Personal Development Coordinator at South Mountain Community College.
Shalmeka Sweet was born in San Bernardino, CA and lived there until she was five years old. However, Sweet considers South Phoenix her home. Both her parents were born and raised south of the I-10, and only lived in California during Sweet’s early childhood. When she was five, her parents decided to move back home to be among friends, family, and their large community base. Sweet attended Martin Luther King (MLK) Elementary on 22nd Street and Carver, south of Broadway.
Future Video Clip: Early Schooling Days
Living and going to school on south side of Phoenix, Sweet grew up amid a rich mixture of African American and Hispanic culture. She remembers her childhood as typical growing up. She played outside, was surrounded by cousins, and frequented the mall as a teen.
Sweet also grew up steeped in the family business of agriculture. Her grandfather (her grandfather’s name/family farm name?) owned two farms where they raised hogs, one located in Marana and the other in Laveen. The grandfather passed down his teachings to his sons and their farm was a pillar in the community. As she grew up in South Phoenix, Sweet began to notice changes in the area. It seemed that most of the agriculture was going away due to modernization. More houses, bigger roads, and large shopping centers began replacing the fields that she recognized from her youth.
Future Video Clip: Life in South Phoenix
Growing up, Sweet watched as many southside churches got their start. Faith is one of her own biggest priorities, and it is a pillar in the black community on the south side. The church is also seen as a source of refuge for people in need of help. During the 1960’s, black churches played a central role in the civil rights movement, with nonviolent marches, to stop the unjust treatment of blacks in America. Sweet’s own upbringing in the church taught her to embrace her faith, reach out and support others, and work diligently for a brighter future.
Future Video Clip: South Phoenix Churches
Sweet was an excellent student. When it was time to enroll in high school, she chose to not attend South Mountain High, but instead enrolled at Tempe High School where she maintained an A average. Upon graduation, Sweet was accepted at Arizona State University. She later transferred to Grand Canyon University.
What did she do before SMCC?
Growing up in South Phoenix, Sweet remembers the simpler small town feel. There was only one grocery store, where her family members shopped and some worked. South Phoenix is now being gentrified. What was once a community dominated by Latino and Black communities, businesses, and schools, is now home to white newcomers.
Future Video Clip: Gentrification/Changes to South Phoenix
In 2018, Sweet began a new role as the Counseling & Personal Development Coordinator at South Mountain Community College. She continues to work, learn, and worship in South Phoenix.
|Place of Origin||San Bernardino, California|
|Place of Residence||Laveen, Arizona|
|Occupation||Counseling & Personal Development Coordinator|
|Years Active in South Phoenix||1980s –|
|Location||South Mountain Community Library|
|Interviewed By||Student Researchers: Gabriel DeMark & Grace McQuillan|
|Story Written By||Student Writers: Micah Simpson and Mohamed Noor|
Faculty Co-Writer: Summer Cherland