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Alaska's Black History: Mary Siah

Eric Engman
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Alaska Black History Notes

Mary Virginia Siah moved to Fairbanks in 1952 in search of better opportunities and became a community activist and artist. She is the oldest of 15 children.

Life drastically changed for her in 1970. In a presentation of Fairbanks Black History, Professor Dorothy Jones spoke about Mary Siah:

It was a car accident in 1970 that changed Mary Siah’s life forever. The accident left her disabled and she used the swimming pool at the Fairbanks Recreational Center for her rehabilitation. In the late 70s, the center was slated to be demolished, but Siah led a grassroots effort. Siah believed the borough needed a swimming pool to provide service to people with disabilities, children, families, and senior citizens.

Siah was a born organizer. She went on to gather signatures on a petition that led to the saving and renovation of the building.

Mary Siah became a community activist for the disabled.

The resolution in 1980, signed by Mayor John Carlson, applauded her efforts and renamed the center the Mary Siah Recreational Center.

She was also honored in 1984 as a recipient of the Governor's Volunteer Award for her dedicated service.