• Azhani Caesar

The Gem City’s “Urban Gym”

Former Mayor shares her passion for the history of West Dayton during tour for area youth.

Tour by Rhine McLin and students at Paul Laurence Dunbar House.

On October 10th, 2021, YLAG had the pleasure of walking through the “Ur­ban Gym” with Dayton native, former Mayor, and first Black female sena­tor in Ohio, Ms. Rhine McLin. Ms. McLin is a resident of the west side of Dayton, who actively pushes to make the city a better place and to high­light and restore its his­toric riches. When speak­ing, Ms. McLin’s love for the city is apparent by her expression of endless possibilities, to grow and preserve the beauty that is affectionately known as “The Gem City”. Thus, creating the name “Urban Gym”. Beginning the tour, Ms. McLin started with his­toric storytelling about her upbringing and the nature of the city during a time when segregation was happening throughout the country. People of color in the African American communities had little opportunities for advancements due to the systematic racism within the country.


Ms. McLin expressed during her youth that Third Street was the place where everything grew and thrived. The majority of the buildings were Black-owned and the residents of the west side of Dayton, especially Ms. McLin, valued and took pride in the history and progression in a city that is evident, she still holds deeply and with the highest regards.


She shared the contributions and historic marks that Dayton’s very own Natives, the Wright

Brothers and Paul Laurence Dunbar, have left not only on a city full of gems but their contributions and impacts on the world.


The Wright Brothers, Orville and Wilbur Wright, known notoriously for the creation of the first successfully operational airplane, resided in Dayton and owned a home on Hawthorn Street in West Dayton which YLAG got the opportunity to visit. Ms. McLin shared, that the City of Dayton made a replica of the house, which a family now resides in. The actual home of the Wright Brothers is now in Dearborn, Michigan.


Tour of the Wright Brothers bicycle shop.

YLAG also had the opportunity to visit their bicycle shop, where the Wright brothers crafted and designed bicycles for a living. During the tour in the Urban Gym, Ms. McLin also shared history about Paul Laurence Dunbar, African American poet, novelist, and short story writer.


YLAG had the opportunity to visit the Paul Laurence Dunbar house located at 219 N Paul Laurence Dunbar St, Dayton, OH, where he resided for many years. Ms. McLin explained that Paul Laurence Dunbar was, and still is a fundamental part of African American History.


She expressed that the work Paul Laurence Dunbar did, will leave a mark on the world, forever. Ms. McLin expressed her admiration and appreciation for both, the Wright brothers and Paul Laurence Dunbar for the history and work they have done for not only the west side, but the city as a whole. YLAG Member Arielle Hancock stated, “During the tour of West Dayton given by Ms. McLin, I really learned a lot about Dayton. I didn't know a lot about that area of Dayton since I never grew up around there. It really surprised me when she told us about all the different businesses that used to be in downtown West Dayton. It was an amazing experience to get to learn more about Dayton with such a well-known

and important woman in Dayton”.


While exploring different aspects of West Dayton Ms. McLin also shared, many historical and unique places in the city with YLAG such as the original YWCA for women of color that is

currently being restored and the skate park built by current Daytonian teens and residents of

the West side of the city.


YLAG member Anika Vukasnovich expressed: “The tour was great and a phenomenal opportunity especially with Ms. McLin. Walking around the city and several historical sites such as the original YWCA, Wright Brothers’ Bike Shop, the home of Paul Laurence Dunbar, etc. displayed to me the large significance of this city on a national spectrum. Seeing and being immersed in Dayton’s rich history allowed me to see the true value of this

city, I luckily get to call home”.


Touring West Dayton with Ms. McLin taught the students a lot they didn’t know.

Ms. McLin expressed that Dayton had and continues to have so much unique and positive potential and as the youth of Dayton, teenagers, and students like YLAG can make a difference, to continue to create positive history for the city and nation. Ms. McLin stated,

“It was a pleasure to have the young ladies join me in the Urban Gym, to recognize the good, the bad, and the ugly in a community and discover the endless opportunities to make it better. Past history is the foundation for creating future history”. Ms. Rhine McLin continues to be a role model for the youth everywhere. Her dedication and care for the progress of the community is nothing short of amazing and if you are lucky, don’t be surprised if someday you

catch her walking and admiring the hidden and known treasures that make, The Urban

Gym a true Gem!


 

Young Ladies Aspiring Greatness (Y-LAG) is a 501c(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to empower and inspire young ladies of color to go beyond their perceived limitations and give them the tools needed to achieve greatness through community involvement. Learn how to support Y-LAG or to become involved at https://www.youngladiesaspiringgreatness.com.

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