As we arrive at the end of 2016, I’m adding my “year in review” to the host of others. Taking time for reflection is valuable, I appreciate the fact that the end of the calendar year is motivating me to think about the projects I have been involved the last 12 months. Feel free to share your 2016 reflections in the comments section – I’m interested!

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Hood Tour stop in Hillcrest, January 18, 2016. Photo by me.

Hood Huggers
On a very chilly Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Monday, January 18, DeWayne Barton launched Hood Tours, hosting two groups organized by the Carolina Jews for Justice. Since that day, approximately 900 people have taken driving and walking tours. The feedback from the tours has been overwhelmingly positive. DeWayne and the neighborhood speakers have helped to raise awareness of the past, present, and future of African Americans in Asheville. I am very proud that my main project in 2016 was providing support to DeWayne’s work with Hood Tours and other Hood Huggers International initiatives for youth and black-owned businesses. (Click here for more details.) I am inspired by what has been accomplished so far, and I look forward to how HHI will continue the work of “Rebuilding Affrilachia.”

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DeWayne Barton and me. Photo by TY MO.

Music and Art
At the end of April, I helped my BFF Phil Cheney and my sweetie Jason Krekel run the Dynamic Arts Gallerie at the French Broad River Festival. I love event production work, and at this festival there was the added bonus of getting to perform music with friends from near and far. My band Krekel & Whoa also played the Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival in May and at a number of other venues over the course of the year. There is no doubt in my mind that the arts are key to joy and healing. While I have not mentioned my music much thus far, I’m including it on my list today with an eye towards more fully integrating the artist and activist parts of my life going forward.

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Dynamic Arts League. Photo by Megan Richardson.

Misc. Projects
I worked on a number of small projects over the course of the year. One was helping artists Joseph Pearson and Jesse Whitehead promote the June 3 opening their powerful show “Perceptions: The Black Male – Images of Dignity” at Pink Dog Creative.

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“Perceptions” opening. Photo by Micah Mackenzie.

Others were: PR for Asheville411 events, social media assistance for the Residents’ Council of the Housing Authority of the City of Asheville, writing for My Daddy Taught Me That and Buncombe County, and logistical support for Hillcrest’s Juneteenth Celebration. Time was also spent in fruitful “behind the scenes” conversations about equity with white people, where I offered insights and suggestions for action.

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GPE Kade performing at Hillcrest’s Juneteenth event. Photo by me.

July
On July 2, I was part of a wonderful, love-filled Hood Huggers celebration at the Burton Street Community Peace Gardens.

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Three of my heroes – Stephen Smith, Olufemi Lewis, and Tamiko Ambrose Murray – at the Hood Huggers celebration. Photo by me.

It was not until later that I learned that, while we were celebrating, Jai “Jerry” Williams was killed by APD officer Tyler Radford. I posted “Love. Loss. Love. Loss. Love.” soon after, which was one of my most read pieces this year. In September, Mountain Xpress published an article I wrote entitled, “A life remembered: Family and friends recall ‘Jerry’ Williams.” Our community is still dealing with this loss and looking for ways to prevent another.

Goombay Festival
For a second year, I was part of the Asheville Goombay Festival production team. The festival was held September 9 – 11. My contributions included creating local African American history signs (adding to a collection that I started in 2015), media outreach, assisting with the Hood Huggers Goombay Art Show at the YMI Cultural Center, and working with Andre Daugherty on a series of video interviews: Click here to watch them.

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Long-time Goombay volunteers Cora Hopper and Marjorie Gilmore with a couple of the history signs I helped create for the festival. Photo by me.

African Americans in WNC Conference
UNC Asheville’s third annual African Americans in WNC Conference was October 28 – 30. It was a honor to be a part of putting on this important, educational, and uplifting multi-day event, including Sunday’s “Unsung Heroes: A Grand Celebration of Latinx and Black Resilience.”

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Barakissa Coulibaly at Unsung Heroes. Photo by Emmanuel Figaro.

This Here Blog
This was my third year of consistently posting on this blog, doing what I can to be an illuminating and connecting force in our community. I appreciate hearing from readers that you find the information and ideas I share helpful and motivating. Your huge hearts give me hope. 

Peace and blessings for the new year.

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Two of my biggest inspirations. Here’s to a future where they flourish.