ByRyan Pierce, Chair, SWNA History Task Force

Ben Sands, performing at Arena Stage, will speak and perform at meeting; Courtesy of Author

This year’s meeting promises to provide an educational and inspiring experience looking at the important stories and contributions of neighborhood residents. Arranged by Thelma Jones of the Black History Sub-committee, this meeting will feature Mr. Craig Syphax, descendant of the prominent Southwest family, and Mr. Benjamin Sands, a musician and educator raised in Southwest.

Mr. Craig Syphax was born at Georgetown University hospital and raised in Arlington, VA., where he currently resides. He is a successful local entrepreneur having owned and operated Bison Painters, Inc. and a family owned real-estate and property management business in Arlington. He also had a successful career in television camera operations and production, working as a producer for Arlington Independent Media. In this capacity, Syphax financed a video interpretation of his family genealogy, Syphax, Rising from the Crucible of Slavery, which cornicles the family’s achievements in Arlington and Washington, D.C.

Mr. Syphax was also involved with several important local history efforts. These include serving as a current board member and past president of The Black Heritage Museum of Arlington (, and serving on several committees: the Arlington County Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee in November 2011, the Arlington WWI Committee since its origin in February 2017, and the Stratford Historic Committee in January 2017. Furthermore, he has presented at various venues around the area and been interviewed for several local programs, including a C-SPAN American History TV program on the Syphax Descendants (

Mr. Benjamin Sands has performed and spoken at several past SWNA events and brings a wonderful success story, aided in part by the SWNA Scholarship Task Force, as one of its earliest scholarship recipients. Sands is an educator and performer, currently serving as Music Director at Calvin Coolidge High School in the District of Columbia. He has also had a long performance career, touring and recording with several prominent artists.

Please join us on Monday, Feb. 24, at 7 p.m. at Arena Stage for this wonderful program to celebrate and learn more about the heritage and impact of Southwest and its residents. Also, please remember to consider visiting the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum to see their exhibition “A Right to the City,” which tells the stories of six D.C. neighborhoods, including Southwest, and runs through April 20, 2020 ( 
For more information on the SWNA History Task Force, as well as links to resources and research opportunities, please visit our website:

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