The Tekrema Center for Arts and Culture

The Tekrema Center. Photo by Cameron Conklin.

The Tekrema Center for Art and Culture is a not-for-profit cultural arts organization “dedicated to the maintenance, development and perseverance of African and African-American art and culture through the performing and visual arts, the humanities, and special events and programming related to issues which particularly affect the African-American community” (WWOZ New Orleans, Tekrema Center for Arts and Culture, August 18th 2013, http://www.wwoz.org/new-orleans-community/music-venues/tekrema-center-art-and-culture).

Programs

Aya Garden
A year round community green space and performance space maintained by the youth and adults who participate in Tekrema programs as well as community residents. The garden provides a place to grow fresh food and a outdoor space for activities and events.

Tekrema Dance Theater
The professional performance entity of the Tekrema Center which performs at events around the city.

Tekrema Youth Ensemble
Tekrema’s youth performance ensemble which teaches music to young residents of the Lower Ninth.

Dance Forever! Dance Forever! Image Project
A week-long workshop of intensive studies in African and African Diaspora dance with film documentation. The Tekrema Dance Theater is featured at this event.

Fulfill My Fantasy
Fulfill My Fantasy is a dance, photography and poetry collaborative incorporating the Tekrema Dance Theater, Youth Ensemble and various other programs.

Family Wellness Day
A collaborative effort between Tekrema, Louisiana Health Sciences Center, and Teen Teens, which is an LSU project. Wellness Day features various events to educate and provides ways for Lower Ninth Ward residents and families to live a healthier life.

SoulSpeak AfroBeat Performance Series
A quarterly performance series featuring local jazz musicians, poetry, dance, and theater presented at the Aya Garden behind the Tekrema Center.

The Healing Room
A one day event to inspire peace, healing and reflection. The various activities including mediation, yoga, massage, dance, poetry and spoken word are open to all ages and free to the public. No prior experience is necessary.

Visions
Visions is a program for children 7 to 17 year olds that provides training in the arts, writing, dance, theater arts, film studies, photography, and cultural field trips on Saturdays and after school. It was originally developed for homeless/underserved and at risk children, but it is an open program welcoming anyone who is interested.

Go Divas
A dance and exercise program for adults.

Tekrema’s Bike Share
Tekrema hosts a bicycle share program for youth and adults 16 years and over in the Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood (Tekrema Center for Arts and Culture, Tekrema, August 18th 2013, http://tekremacenter.wordpress.com/activities-and-classes/).

Cultural Impact

Tekrema serves as more than just a place to take dance classes or see performances, Tekrema has become a community center focused on arts and culture that holds many roles in this community. Yoga and a community garden are just a few examples of how the Tekrema Center for Art and Culture reaches beyond the conventional notion of an arts center. Tekrema is a word from Ghana denoting growth and improvement. While African-influenced arts remain the focus of the center, Tekrema founder Greer Mendy says its programs have expanded since Hurricane Katrina to encourage the growth and improvement of its neighborhood in deeper ways. The unifying theme is to cultivate a sense of wellness and vibrancy for a community, and to broaden the horizons of people who walk through the center’s doors.

“We can’t be, everything to everyone, but what does it take to make a community whole?” says Mendy Greer, founder of the Center. “If the emphasis is just on your day-to-day living, then that can become very hard on your spirit, on your human spirit. So there’s got to be a place where you’re afforded some mental and emotional outlets. And that’s what we hope to do here, that’s what we hope to provide here.”

In addition to its own programming, Tekrema is proving to be an incubator for other grassroots efforts, serving a capacity building role in the community. For instance, Charise Williams, a dedicated participate in the weekly yoga classes provided by Tekrema, is now starting her own mentoring program for teenage girls in the neighborhood. And, after seeing the impact Tekrema has made on her own family, she feels the center is the perfect place from which to run it (WWOZ New Orleans, Tekrema Center for Arts and Culture, Mendy Greer, August 18th 2013, http://www.wwoz.org/new-orleans-community/music-venues/tekrema-center-art-and-culture).

Mapping Non-Profit Influence: The Case of the Lower Ninth Ward

Tekrema Center for Arts and Culture is one of many organizations that have worked to restore the Lower Ninth Ward after Hurricane Katrina. As part of a larger study of the impact and networks of of non-profits in 2013 (please see Mapping Non-Profit Influence: The Case of the Lower Ninth Ward for more details), we can see that this organization excels in the following areas:

Performance

1. Access to consumers regardless of ability to pay
Tekrema shost free yoga classes weekly and many other classes at very affordable prices, making it very accessible to consumers, even if they are unable to pay. Many of their performances and one day events are also free to the public. Similar dance and music classes are not provided in this neighborhood by any private or government entity.

2. Provisions of collective goods
Tekrema provides a collective good through its information sharing activities (education, capacity building) as well as providing a performance space, green space and garden open to the community.

Participation in Information Sharing

When we analyze Tekrema based on its extent of participation in information sharing activities, we see they are active in 3 ways:

1. Education
Tekrema is very focused on education, providing several classes all year round for all age groups, such as yoga, dance, and music. They also educate through programs such as Family Wellness Day.

2. Capacity Building
Tekrema is building capacity in the Lower Ninth by providing a space in which community members can create and implement their own programs, such as the mentoring program that Charise Williams is beginning at the Center. The mission of Tekrema serves as inspiration to stimulate new ideas by residents of the community.

3. Networking
Tekrema is connected with 2 other organizations in this study (CSED and L9 Center for the Arts) and also collaborates with other New Orleans organizations such as Sankofa Development Corporation.

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