Ashé Cultural Center is Home for Today & Tomorrow

By Kelly Harris, Founder/Editor

This month I decided to stop by Ashé Cultural Arts Center with my daughter, Naomi. It was Friday, a busy day. Ashé was bustling in preparation for that night’s production of the Vagina Monologues. At first glance, I thought this is probably a bad time to drop in with an 18-month-old who wants to touch everything. Thankfully, Ashé  is a place where cultural discovery is welcomed.

Hey sweetie pie, Mr. Scolly said to Naomi as he continued moving chairs and tables.  “How are you today?” After chatting with him and others, I knew we should probably move on to our next stop, home.

Before leaving I wanted to be sure to say hello to Executive Director, Carol Bebelle. I asked, “Is Mama Carol in? We just want to stick our heads in and wave hello.” Associate Director, Jo Ann Minor peeked into Carol’s office and announced to her, she had a special visitor.

Naomi led the way.

If you’ve ever been in Mama Carol’s office, you know it’s a crammed space that can require a little contorting, but Naomi was determined and made her way to Mama Carol’s arms. Mama Carol and Naomi talked eye to eye about all things Naomi, of course.  I don’t know what was on her schedule, but she received us as if she had been expecting us.


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Mama Carol and Naomi

“What shall we do to commemorate your visit?” she asked Naomi.  Then she gave her a second-line umbrella. She signed it:

To Naomi:

Our newest, young cultural bearer

Love, Mama C

A cultural bearer is not only a person one who creates art that upholds the tradition and dignity of the community. A cultural bearer also makes way for the new, the young, the artist to come.

At Ashé’s community partner, Christian Baptist Church, Naomi practices with other children for an upcoming performance at the Kids Tent at the Jazz and Heritage Festival. The opening song is “Funga Alafia”.  Funga Alafia is a traditional Yoruba song of welcome and blessings.

Ashe is a village and the spirit of the song was manifested in the moment between elder and child.

Funga Alafia. Ashé Ashé

Naomi can’t pronounce Funga Alafia, but she does respond to the call with: sha-shay sha-shay.

Soon, it was time to go.

Before putting Naomi in the car, I bent down to her and asked, Did you have a fun at Ashé today? She clapped, and sang, sha-shay, sha-shay.


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