Veverly Edwards, executive director of the African American Arts Cafe, eagerly waits to provide the community with cultural arts. She has planned a festival for Saturday to give the neighborhood a taste of what the cafe will offer. (Photo: Dima Amro/The Commercial Appeal)
A South Memphis neighborhood is introducing an African American Arts Cafe to highlight the community’s talents and history while working to unite residents.
The African American Arts Festival in the Riverview Kansas community on Saturday will celebrate the planned launch of the cafe. The free festival is 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at Shady Grove Missionary Baptist Church, 1821 Kansas St.
The festival will showcase music, poetry, dance, artwork and more from local African American artists, along with crafts and food trucks. The festival is open to the public.
The cafe’s mission seeks to use African American arts to educate and uplift the community. An exact opening date for the cafe has not been set.
Veverly Edwards, executive director of the Arts Cafe, said she got the idea after visiting Caritas Village, a cultural community center, and saw the artistic activities the center provided for kids and adults.
She said the neighborhood needs a community arts center like Caritas to unite the neighborhood.
“The idea for the festival and cafe for this community is to bring more cultural arts activities,” Edwards said. “It’s so the residents can have a place to go to feel a sense of community.”
Edwards said the cafe, which will be located by Shady Grove Missionary Baptist Church, will feature an area for food and an area for artwork. All artwork will come from artists in the neighborhood.
She anticipates the opening of a community arts center will help kids understand their histories and customs.
“We need to revitalize this neighborhood,” Edwards said. “If you drive around you’ll see, it’s a lot of blight. Our goal is to try to bring resources and activities that will give the youth an option to do something more constructive and to teach them to use their voices.”
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She said the cafe and festival let the people know the community hears and sees them, and show them they can do something about the issues in the neighborhood.
“A lot of times, people, you don’t hear their voices,” Edwards said. “They don’t have the opportunity to speak out, or they speak out and there are not enough people behind them. Art is the way out of that.”
Edwards said literary and visual arts would fill the cafe when it opens, and she believes the cafe will provide an educational opportunity for the community.
“The goal is to also use art as a way to build on literacy skills,” said Edwards, who eventually would like to put an African American library in the cafe. “That’s not only an issue here, that’s an issue throughout Memphis. Through art you can learn a whole lot more.”
If you go
When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday
Where: Shady Grove Missionary Baptist Church, 1821 Kansas St.Parts of Kansas Street, Modder Avenue and Vaal Avenue will be closed off.
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