Growing up in Lancaster city, Marquis Lupton has fond memories of Crispus Attucks Community Center, where his mom organized dance classes and he worked as a teenage camp counselor.
And after college, the community center at 407 Howard Ave. is where he got his first real job as a caseworker.
Lupton, who subsequently got jobs in television news as an on-air reporter in Salisbury, Maryland, and then in Atlantic City, New Jersey, says he continued to have fond memories of Crispus Attucks, even if one of those memories was that the building’s gym floor always seemed a little old.
When the television station he was working for in Atlantic City abruptly closed at the end of 2016 and Lupton lost his job, he made his way back to Lancaster, where he soon became a Crispus Attucks volunteer.
Back in his hometown, the 35-year-old Lupton spent time on community service projects and his own media projects while also teaching public speaking and English as an adjunct professor at Millersville University, York Technical Institute and Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology.
Lupton ran for Lancaster City Council in 2017, and even though he didn’t win, he says it helped raise his profile for his other projects.
Having decided against trying to get another television job, Lupton was on the lookout for something that would suit his interest in community development, eventually finding it at Crispus Attucks, where he became program coordinator in July.
In his new role, Lupton is responsible for daily operations and also assists with event planning, community outreach, fundraising and setting a vision for the future of the organization.
“The same things that gave me a rush for being a journalist, I’m getting that same rush and feeling now,” he says. “I’m still knocking on doors and chasing down leads; it’s just in a different capacity.”
A long history in Lancaster
Crispus Attucks Community Center provides educational and cultural programs to celebrate African American heritage and also operates a soup kitchen and food pantry. Its annual events include the Juneteenth Celebration and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast.
Lupton joins Crispus Attucks at a time of transition for the southeast Lancaster organization, whose history in Lancaster goes back to 1927. Last year it came under the auspices of Community Action Partnership of Lancaster County, an anti-poverty nonprofit that’s working to stabilize the organization’s finances and refocus its mission.
While Lupton hasn’t yet delved into the finances of Crispus Attucks, he has hit the ground running with new ideas, including a media literacy camp for kids he launched last month.
“Lancaster isn’t the same Lancaster that it was 10 years ago, let alone 30 years ago,” he says. “We can’t look at Crispus Attucks and say, ‘OK, what made Crispus Attucks great, let’s do that again.’ We have to find out what are the avenues that people are going into now.”
Lupton says he is eager to hear from community members about what they want to see at Crispus Attucks, learning already that there are a lot of opinions about what could or should happen.
But he’s already moving ahead with another project he says will send shockwaves through the community — a new floor for the gym.
“I think that physical change along with the other little changes, the center will soon regain the respect and trust of the community,” he says.
Lupton already has reached out to Lumber Liquidators, whose “Lay it Forward” program provides new flooring for nonprofit organizations. If that doesn’t work, Lupton says he’ll hit up Home Depot or Lowe’s or maybe work through Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore.
Along with doing some repainting, and cleanup, Lupton says a new floor is the best way to set the stage for the changes that will be rolled out next year.
“It’s really taking this old historic building and kind of ushering it into the 21st century,” he says.
Telling a different story
Crispus Attucks Community Center is named for an American dockworker of African and Native American descent who is considered the first casualty of the Revolutionary War since he was killed in the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770.
Lupton said Crispus Attucks is an appealing symbol for the African American community since it provides a different kind of inspiration.
“It really shows that not all of our history comes from slavery,” he says. “There are African Americans in this country who don’t derive from slaves, who had a whole different experience.”
Telling a different story about the African American community was one of the things Lupton said he tried to do when he was a reporter and weekend anchor for NBC 40 in Atlantic City.
Yet he says he often got pulled away from those kinds of stories so he could cover a crime or other disaster.
“Especially during tourist season, there was always some calamity going on down there,” he says.
When he lost his job in media, Lupton threw more energy into The Cultured Professional Network, which tells stories of underrepresented communities through podcasting, blogs and video production.
Lupton says he would like to launch something similar at Crispus Attucks, which he said would be an ideal hub for a community radio station.
“For years, we’ve always heard or said or complained about the Crispus Attucks center needs to do this, the Crispus Attucks center needs to do that,” he says. “Now, here’s an opportunity to put your money where your mouth is.”