By Edward Carter III
New Orleans has many historical traditions, however, when the African-American Museum in Tremé closed in 2013, due to financial problems, it was considered an important loss for the Black community. When it first opened in 2000 on 1417 Gov. Nicholls Street, the museum served as a space to house the history and culture of Black people in the city. Residents and supporters showed up at the Historic Building of the Villa Meilleur as the museum reopened on April 12, 2019.
“We are really doing a lot of fundraising both in the city and outside the city to renovate these buildings,” said Gia Hamilton, the Executive Director and Chief Curator for the Museum.
“We want to make sure that all the people who put energy in that space get the opportunity to see it come alive again,” said Hamilton, adding that the plan is to turn this renovated museum into one of the best museums across the country.
“We are working tirelessly again to think through and strategize on how to fulfill this dream of creating a state-of-the-art African-American Museum,” said Michael Griffin, the Museum’s Board President and the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Daughters of Charity Services of New Orleans.
The grand opening launched with an exhibit titled “Everywhere We Are, Everywhere We Go: Black Space and Geographies.” The exhibit was co-produced by the Amistad Research Center and will be available for the public to view until the end of 2019. The renovations for the New Orleans African-American Museum are part of wider city plans to modernize the whole Tremé neighborhood along Governor Nicholls Street. The museum will use federal and private grants to support renovations for the remaining buildings that comprise the museum’s extended campus.
“The New Orleans African-American Museum is routed in history, culture and art,” Hamilton said.
“Part of what we want to do is make sure that we are grounding this in the history, but that we are also doing economic development. We are not interested in being an old model of a museum, we are interested in how we can really serve a community,” Hamilton added.
This was an event that impacted the community in various ways, residents said. For people who were already aware of the museum, seeing it return as an important space for the community was a moment of celebration for those who attended the opening.
“May we always have joy, may we always have laughter, and may we remember that we are really children,” said Janet “Sula Spirit” Evans, a Singer-Songwriter, who spoke at the event, and who encouraged the audience to preserve memory through places like these. The museum affects the community positively, Adams added, giving artists, musicians, and speakers a place to connect to residents and to share and preserve culture.
“The museum is diverse giving people a location to feel that this is where they belong,” Evans said. “Thank you for being honorable, thank you for your liking, and for all the babies out here, thank you all for being born. I say Ashe,” Evans told the crowd at the opening.
This article originally appeared in the New Orleans Data News Weekly.