Offerings Highlight Area's Black History

By Laura Moore, posted Apr 15, 2022
Wilmington native Cedric Harrison created the WilmingtoNColor tour bus to focus on equity and Black history. (Photo c/o Cedric Harrison)
Visitors and locals can learn more about Black history and culture, as well as support local Black-owned businesses, in interesting and delicious ways.
A good place to start is with a healthy treat from Kalethy Living, a 2-year-old business run by Brian Royses and his wife, Sandi. While not everyone can be healthy all the time, the Royes want to help their customers be healthy some of the time with their smoothies, bowls and toasts in the Target shopping center in Wilmington.
“No matter who you are, you need to remember to include something healthy in your life. Just don’t forget to do it,” Brian Royes said. “When people come to Wilmington, and hear about the local places, more than anything, we want to be one of those places.”
Aiming to connect with their customers while catering to food allergies and dietary needs, the Royeses are committed to their passion for hospitality by creating a place where everyone is welcome.
“Part of our culture is knowing names and orders. You are treated just as you would be if you came into our home,” Brian Royes said. “It is genuine. We want to make you feel welcome.”
After being fueled by a healthy treat, head downtown to enjoy “Common Roots, Many Branches,” an exhibition featuring works from the National Alliance of Artists from Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
“Interestingly enough, at this point in time, we have the largest amount of African American artwork in Wilmington,” said Rhonda Bellamy, executive director of the Arts Council of Wilmington and New Hanover County.
The arts council, in collaboration with Live Oak Bank’s small business center Channel, features an exhibit of more than 100 pieces of art created by professors and students from HBCUs at both Channel at 106 Market St. and Gallery Verrazzano at theArtWorks, 200 Willard St. through April 30.
The Cameron Art Museum is another place to view art by Black artists, including Elizabeth Catlett, Faith Ringgold and Kara Walker.
Catlett is known for her commitment, in art and life, to social justice. Ringgold, born in 1930 in Harlem, New York, is a painter, mixed-media sculptor, performance artist, writer, teacher and lecturer. New York-based artist Walker is known “for her candid investigation of race, gender, sexuality and violence through silhouetted figures that have appeared in numerous exhibitions worldwide,” according to her website.
“These recent acquisitions deepen CAM’s commitment to diversity in our collection and continue strategic focus on collecting works on paper by contemporary artists,” museum executive director Anne Brennan said.
These works were acquired and made part of CAM’s ever-growing permanent collection. They were voted on by Cameron Art Museum’s Compass Leadership Level Membership Group at a special acquisition program held at the museum March 10.
Keep the cultural momentum going and hop on the WilmingtoNColor shuttle to learn more about the history of African Americans in Wilmington.
What began as a project centered on a educational coloring book has grown into a tribute to Black history in the Wilmington area.
After Wilmington native Cedric Harrison had already “grown and graduated,” he decided to focus his energy on creating a solution to empower a younger generation. He initially used a coloring book as “a medium to get in front of the youth of Wilmingtonians.”
Through grants and fellowships, including the All For NC Fellows, Harrison was awarded $75,000 to help better the lives of those in marginal communities. Harrison, who said he has a desire to accelerate the community in national tourism, was able to “bring in that presence to Wilmington” through the WilmingtoNColor tour bus focusing on equity and Black history.
According to the WilmingtoNColor website, “On November 10, 1898, an angry mob of white supremacists led the only successful coup in America, where a massacre took place that wiped out the educated, rich and influential African American population.”
Harrison’s goal is to educate the public about this event and its long-lasting consequences.
“This coup took away the roots of the academic and economic foundation of the Black community, and its effects still haunt the community today,” the website continued.
The most important goal of the tour is “to connect the past with the present, in hopes of rebuilding a future that can reflect what Wilmington, North Carolina looked like before the events of 1898 took place,” Harrison said.
Eventually, Harrison hopes to build a cultural center, where the tour can culminate at a legacy museum.
The 10-person bus costs $35 per person, and arrangements can be made for pickup and drop-off locations. Harrison described that the tour provides “a full view of other people’s perspectives for those who care about equity and the national contributions that Black people have made not only in town, but in the nation.”
Once the tour is complete, head back uptown for dinner by acclaimed chef Keith Rhodes at Catch.
“I believe that Catch is special because it’s a homegrown, community- rooted restaurant. We reflect a sense of pride and we give back to our community,” said Angela Rhodes, Keith Rhodes’ wife.
Catch supports local vendors, fishermen and oyster harvesters. Angela Rhodes explained that they maintain a level of excellence with customer service by educating and team-building with staff while serving great food.
“There’s that hospitality factor that goes a long way, whether you’re a local or visiting. When you walk through those doors, you’re family,” she said. “We appreciate that you’ve taken the time to share good food and service.”
Rhodes is proud of her husband’s accolades, but prouder of what they have built together.
“As a Black-owned business, we bring a strong sense of family, commitment, discipline, humbleness and accomplishment. Chef works extremely hard; his accolades range from James Beard Foundation nominations, being on Top Chef and everything in between,” Angela Rhodes said.
“He’ll never truly know how proud I am of him, how blessed we are to be able to work together and how everyday he wakes up and has the ability to make others happy through food.”
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