If you’ve never heard of “Ashe Cultural Center” take the chance to explore the vibrant website (https://www.ashenola.org/) that reflects their mission statement; “Ashé is a profound testament to the resistance, innovation and intrinsic power of the cultural traditions that thrive in New Orleans and have prevailed throughout the African Diaspora”.
My time with Ashe’ Cultural Center off of The Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., (Oretha, an activist of New Orleans that I will personally take time to honor) is such a beautiful opportunity that I have been given. Here at Ashe’ they work as a family and I’ve seen that one cannot do without the understanding and support of another. It is evident that they are a huge backbone for their community and continue to be a hub to support opportunities that bring awareness to the power of their culture and protect it along with offering housing to community members!
My very first night arriving in New Orleans after the hustle and bustle of travel, I was a guest at their screening of the documentary on Gordon Parks titled “A Choice of Weapons.” It was hosted in their Powerhouse and was breathtakingly beautiful. At the end of the documentary we engaged in a talk back with some of New Orleans based photographers such as Carla Williams, Eric Waters, L. Kasimu Harris, Ryan Marrero and Mariana Sheppard. The next week I began sitting in on the creative team and operations meetings observing the conversations and how they navigate being so available and willing for their community. They are a reflection of holding their mission statement first along with accountability from one another.
Working with Ashe’ I have learned so much more outside of just being an artist. I had the surprising and beneficial opportunity to be a production assistant for two of their shows; “Go On ‘n’ Tell ‘Em” produced by Constance Thompson Ashe’s Creative Producer and Jose Torres-Tama, a long time friend, associate and “Arctivist” (artist + activist), of Ashe’, his work titled, “United States of Amnesia; Dare to Remember.” Vanae Pate and the artist Vanae Iesha had never worked sound or visuals before Ashe’ and as nerve wracking as it was, the cast and team was so supportive that it helped with the overall success. And afterwards we partied with the spirit and energy of gratitude and success. A direct representation of the spirit of Ashe’.
My position as a Socially Engaged Arts Advocate, is one that was created for me so that my dream of working in Louisiana in the Black arts community and getting the chance to work in the atmosphere with the amazing arctivist, Sunni Patterson. I had several moments of engagement with Mrs. Patterson, especially revolving around the National gathering hosted by Ashe’ and Tulane University “Imagining America; Rituals of Renewal and Repair.” I had been tasked with being a part of meetings and being to get an understanding of that weekend and see how Ashe’ continues to show up authentically at every engagement.
Before my time came to an early resolve along with IA and being apart of their meetings, giving creative offerings, helping administratively, I also had the beautiful opportunity to host and teach a movement class for their weekly “SISTAHS” gathering! The Sistahs gathering is typically held Tuesdays and Thursdays for women and girls of all ages, backgrounds and races. My host Mama Jamilah, is the leader of this Sistah’s community and strongly willed in making sure the opportunities are available for the ladies! Sistah’s support women and encourages them to continue to move and groove to advance their health.
I have learned much about myself during this journey and had to accomplish self healing and goals while away from my community back in Ohio. I will always cherish this opportunity and look forward to what the future holds for this relationship!