New energy at FAHI

February 17, 2014

By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

The Fayette Area Historical Initiative (FAHI) African American Museum & Cultural Center started a new year with a new director, a new board chairman and new exhibits. 

Chauncey Adams was hired as the full-time executive director, effective Jan. 8.

Faye Holland was elected the new board chairman after long-time board chairman Curtis Millner stepped down because, he said, new perspectives are needed. He will remain in an advisory capacity and help as needed, he added. 

As the organization sets its course for the next few months, Holland said, a variety of programs are being developed, all geared to “reawaken or re-remind people of the rich African American heritage we have.”

One of the new exhibits capped off 2013 in preparation of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations in January, Adams said. Another exhibit deals with both King and President Barack Obama. 

“The newest exhibit was just put up last week” and includes a baseball card collection from the Negro Baseball League, comic books in which African Americans are cast as heroes, an authentic drum made from zebra skin and an “authentic painted Kente cloth” that was made in Africa, Adams said.

The cloth is a type of silk and cotton fabric made of interwoven cloth strips and is native to the Akan ethnic group of South Ghana. It is painted with brilliant colors that are symbolic. For instance, black symbolizes maturity — intensified spiritual energy; white — purification, sanctification rites and festive occasions; blue — peacefulness, harmony and love; and green — vegetation, planting, harvesting, growth, spiritual renewal. 

The cloth on display in Martinsville has a scene of two villagers with a hut and a cow, Adams said.

Five masks from Zambia also are part of the new display. Similar masks are used in ceremonies throughout Africa. 

A hanging T-shirt display, which includes about 20 shirts that portray various parts of African-American history, is suspended from the ceiling, Adams said.

Holland said Adams is “so energetic and so focused on getting us from Point A to Point B. She is so energetic that she gets everybody on the board excited, and we anticipate her enthusiasm will spread into the community as we continue building and strengthening our foundation.” 

In the short term, Adams is partnering with others in the community, working with organizations that are well established and stronger to learn and make FAHI stronger, Holland said.

That includes connections with local museums, such as the Martinsville-Henry County Historical Society’s Heritage Center and Museum, Piedmont Arts, the Artisan Center and “state organizations that can help,” Holland said. 

“We also will be having programs that people can relate to, programs that will bring them into our organization” and make them want to learn and become a part of FAHI, Holland said. “And we are looking at programs to help bring young people in.”

In addition to a reading program for youngsters, “we are establishing an SAT preparedness program. That should be up and going within the next couple months, and we are looking at offering summer programs for kids,” Holland said. 

Those programs have not been developed yet, she said.

“We have to find funding for all that we want to do, and we are looking for people to help us with the grant writing,” Holland said. 

Also, “Martinsville also is on the map for the event that we have in June,” Holland said of the June German Ball.

This year, that event also will be revitalized, she said. 

She explained that historically, the ball was a three-day event. For years, it was not held at all, and then it began again but only on one day.

The ball this year will include an awards ceremony on Friday, a street fest on Saturday morning and a concert/dance Saturday evening, Holland said. The event will end on Sunday afternoon with a gospel concert. 

“Historically, the June German Ball started on Friday, and people came from all areas” and states to attend events and concerts that featured the major entertainers of the time, Holland said. “We are looking forward to doing it again and partnering with those organizations” in other areas, including New York, Georgia and the Carolinas, that hold similar events.

FAHI also has a website that is about 6 months old and a page on social media, Holland said. 

The paths forward are all geared to “revitalize an awareness of what we have to offer, what our heritage is and how strong it is in this area because a lot of people just don’t realize what went on here back in the day,” Holland said. “There was a period of time when the reminders of our heritage just weren’t out there, and we need that.”

Although Holland said it is a formidable task, FAHI is up to the challenge. 

“It will be a big job because we have so much African-American history that has been lost or not brought to the forefront, and it needs to be,” she said. “A lot of it is acquired by talking to the forefathers and the warriors that are still around. Finding those people” and jogging their memories to get information “is a big job, and it needs to be done.”

FAHI’s museum follows the school closings during inclement weather but otherwise is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays and other times by appointment for group tours.


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