By Amy Bareham
Cultural & Community Investment Intern
The collard green is a nutritious superpower, rich with health benefits and antioxidants. A distinct feature in the LATIBAH Collard Green Museum’s logo, it is also a metaphor for LATIBAH itself. Founded by T’Afo Feimster, the museum functions as an inviting detox from a demanding world by celebrating and preserving African-American heritage.
The mission, according to Feimster, is simple: to provide a place where individuals can come and experience the people and events prevalent to black American history. Surrounded by life size exhibits, artists in residence, and numerous gallery spaces, guests are transported to another time – one where stories were exchanged and trials shared – maybe even with a side of collard greens.
Feimster’s vision initially began developing in his NoDa studio, where he spent time painting.
“I’m an artist first and foremost,” he said. “I’m passionate about African-American history and my art reflects that.”
As his interest in historical connections grew, Feimster considered presenting them in tangible, museum exhibition form.
“In 2009, that’s when I said okay I’ll convert this into a museum,” he added. When two floods damaged LATIBAH’s first home in 2011, the Collard Green team searched for a different space.
Recently re-situated on Tuckaseegee Road in Charlotte, LATIBAH’s selection as a Cultural Innovation Grant recipient has enabled it to further establish roots at the new location. Not only are the Knight Foundation and the Arts and Science Council perpetuating the education of Charlotte’s community through this grant, the funding is aiding an identity awakening.
“I began to realize, well wait a minute, not only is it important that our culture and history be an educational [priority], but there’s a demand for it,” Feimster said. “[R]esearch has shown that our self-image and our self-esteem…is based on our understanding of our history and culture. Individuals who know very little about where they come from, who they are, their self-esteem is lowered by 15-percent.”
Believing LATIBAH could educate and uplift, Feimster advanced the museum’s infrastructure. Salvaging exhibits and installing pieces was the starting point. Then, he looked for resources – directors, office managers and docents to ingratiate into the museum’s day-to-day scene. Addressing marketing needs and establishing a board of directors also came about as a result of the Cultural Innovation Grant.
This funding will not return void, either. Collaborating with the McColl Center for Art + Innovation and local groups like the Juvenile Justice Program, LATIBAH is invested in the Queen City and the inspiration of her people.
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