The Family Collage

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Next in the Heritage & History series is “The Family Collage,” which is an assembling of stories about kinship and friendship featuring Journalist and Madam CJ Walker descendant A’LELIA BUNDLES. It is one of several programs I’ve had the joy of creating and working on as project manager with the Gantt Center. Stories on past programs in the series can be found here and here.

A’Lelia is a writer, public speaker and entrepreneur, and she was the guest speaker at the inaugural opening of my exhibit The Soul of Philanthropy. “The Family Collage” is inspired, in part, by recent commemorations of the 105th birthday of Charlotte-born artist Romare Bearden. Bundles interviewed Bearden in the 1980s and their maternal ancestors were close friends. President of the Madam Walker and A’Lelia Walker Family Archives, A’Lelia will share fascinating stories of both the Walker and Bearden families.

A’Lelia has written extensively about her illustrious family—from the biography of her iconic great-great-grandmother, On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker, to stories about her great-grandmother A’Lelia Walker, known as “The Joy Goddess,” whose parties, friendships, global travel and arts patronage made her a central figure of the Harlem Renaissance.

Come gain new insights on these high-profile Black American families and bold American history-makers. You’ll also take away ideas for collecting your own family history and keeping your family’s roots alive.

You can buy your ticket here: The Family Collage

The Heritage & History series features nationally noted artists and scholars who are preserving Black culture through an array of disciplines and media. In hosting each culture keeper, the Gantt Center invites public participation in special events and experiences that illuminate important stories and engage audiences.

The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture celebrates the contributions of Africans and African-Americans to American culture and serves as a community epicenter for music, dance, theater, visual art, film, arts education programs, literature and community outreach. The Gantt Center partners with Duke Energy in presenting the Heritage & History series.

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BIG Night for the Gantt Center

B I G  T H A N K S.   B I G  H E I G H T S.   B I G  N I G H T.

For the past four years, I’ve been the event consultant on the Jazzy Holiday fundraising events of the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts+Culture. Year after year, I have witnessed the event grow in a myriad of ways, so this year I picked the theme “BIG” for Jazzy. It seems the universe was listening and served up an event bigger than I ever imagined. Every element seemed to come “super-sized”.

The 2015 Jazzy Holiday Gala took place at the Charlotte Convention Center on Saturday, December 5. The event featured not only big art, a “big cheese” table, a big bar, big opportunities to give and a big band called Big Blast and the Party Masters but also preview performances by the world-renowned Dance Theater of Harlem and Spirit of the Center awards to Duke Energy, arts patrons Dr. Yele Aluko and Dr. Shirley Aluko-Houston, and Lonnie Bunch of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. People and entities of huge prominence in their respective spheres.

And arguably best of all, the event helped the Gantt Center raise over $500,000—the largest amount ever raised in the 35-year history of the “Jazzy” fundraising luncheons and galas. We set our intention with the BIG concept, and it was delivered, big time!

Here’s a link to a Storify.com recap of the event and below are some event photographs, along with a written account of the organizing concept that framed Jazzy 2015.


Organizing Concept for Jazzy 2015

Last year the Gantt Center celebrated its 40th anniversary. Now, in the 41st year, the Center sits in full recognition of its evolution from a seed of an idea into a big institution. After tremendous growth since 1974, the mission and daily work of the Center are reflected in a big building, big city, big contributions, big membership roll, big opportunities, big expectations and more.

While big is perceived the ultimate attainment, big things are realized only through the sum of innumerable little things and small acts. Decades are built on brief moments. An art collection begins with one piece. One spellbinding performance bursts from practiced small moves. A masterful painting emerges from a thousand brushstrokes. The largesse of a major donor begins with the experiences of a once impressionable child. Little things make big things happen.

The 2015 Jazzy Holiday Gala is designed as an expression of gratitude and recognition of the bigness and boldness of the Gantt Center and of Black culture. Without a multitude of everyday achievements, small contributions, untold sacrifices and mundane milestones, we could have never reached the grand heights of today. And without ongoing community commitment, both large and small, we will never fulfill our biggest dreams, our most audacious hopes or our immense potential to be great.

Click a photo to access the sideshow format.

Photographs courtesy of the Gantt Center as well as from my iPhone and social media

— VF