All posts by admin

DeWayne Barton Selected for New National Leadership Program to Build Health Equity

Leaders from Honolulu, to Providence, R.I.—working across a range of fields, including social policy, community development, public health, and government—have been selected to participate in the Culture of Health Leaders program. These leaders will explore a diversity of pressing issues in health and equity, such as addressing the legacy of structural violence and denial of access to basic needs for marginalized communities; using physical design and other traffic calming measures to improve safety for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists; and spearheading a new community garden that teaches kids about culture, race, and poverty.

As one of 40 selected applicants, DeWayne Barton joins Culture of Health Leaders, a program co-led by the National Collaborative for Health Equity and CommonHealth ACTION with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Mr. Barton will join leaders from across the country to collaborate and innovate to solve persistent challenges and advance a Culture of Health—one that places well-being at the center of every aspect of life.

As part of the program Mr. Barton will enhance his skills in community development and integrating the arts, the environment, and social enterprise in neighborhoods for improved health and resiliency. This award is made in partnership with area nonprofit Buncombe County Service Foundation.

Along the way, he will develop high-level leadership skills through professional coaching, mentoring, networking, and an advanced leadership curriculum. While participating in the program, he will continue working full-time, applying new knowledge and leadership in his workplace and community.

“We’re excited to welcome the second cohort of Culture of Health Leaders, who are authentically engaging with communities to elevate their voices and create an equitable, healthy nation,” said Brian Smedley, Culture of Health Leaders co-director and executive director and co-founder of the National Collaborative for Health Equity. Natalie Burke, Culture of Health Leaders co-director and executive director of CommonHealth Action notes, “These leaders demonstrate a willingness to engage in the deep, transformative work necessary to strengthen their leadership and their communities while creating opportunities for all people to achieve their best possible health.”

The 40 selected leaders join the efforts of the first cohort of Culture of Health Leaders and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to build a Culture of Health.

Program partners providing training and coaching to leaders include: American Planning Association, Build Healthy Places Network, Center for Creative Leadership, Institute for Alternative Futures, and Leadership Learning Community.

Culture of Health Leaders is one of a number of leadership development programs supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). These programs continue RWJF’s legacy of supporting the development and diversity of leaders. Initially focused on health and health care, the programs have been expanded, because the Foundation knows that building a Culture of Health requires all of us in every sector, profession, and discipline to work together. The next application period for many of these programs will open in early 2018. Additional information is available at

#   #    #


Summer News

We’d like to share with you some of the things we are involved with this summer, in addition to our regular Hood Tours.

Financial Literacy Program
Pictured above is the first family that will be piloting the financial literacy program that the interns from Self-Help Credit Union developed  with us this summer.

Buncombe County – Pearson Plan
Buncombe County recently awarded the Shiloh, Burton Street and East End/Valley Street neighborhoods an Isaac Coleman Economic Community Investment Grant to implement aspects of the Pearson Plan. Click here to learn more.
 LEAF Downtown
Join Hood Huggers this weekend at LEAF Downtown AVL. On Saturday at 5:30 pm we are hosting a talent show celebrating up-and-coming artists from historically African American neighborhoods. Also over the weekend we will be making plastic puppet people, inspiring conversations around the environment. These sculptures will be part of a performance at the Peace Garden on Saturday, September 16 in collaboration with Asheville Creative Arts.
WRES Sweet 16 Banquet Honoring John R. Hayes
On Saturday, August 19, 7 pm at AB Tech/Mission Health Conference Center, celebrate the 16th Anniversary of WRES-LP 100.7 FM by honoring John R. Hayes for his many contributions to the community. Proceeds will go to support the Empowerment Resource Center/WRES FM. Tickets are $25 per person in advance/$30 at the door and are available for purchase at or at the station, 91 Patton Ave.
Poetry for the Eclipse
DeWayne Barton will be performing as part of the Great Smokies National Park Solar Eclipse event at Clingman’s Dome on Monday, August 21. 
I-26 Connector
We are partnering with Neighborhood Solutions to work with the NC DOT on betterment for the Burton Street Community in response to the I-26 expansion.

Thanks to the Americorps volunteers who built this wonderful shelter for Martha Jane’s garden!

Save the Date!
Burton Street Agricultural Fair will be Saturday, September 16!
As always, thank you for your interest and support!


This Summer, Hood Huggers is happy to be working with three interns from Self-Help Credit Union, and one on our own.

Sapphire DeBellott and Donovan Spencer are both Self-Help Outreach Interns, focusing on outreach to the African American community. They are looking into local organizations that need to know about Self-Help, especially organizations focused on youth, and they are developing materials to spread the word about Self-Help to these groups. With Hood Huggers, they are working on developing a well-rounded financial literacy program for middle school and high school students, and creating the marketing materials to go with the program. Finally, they are participating in a number of outreach activities. Their task is to “make it fun!”

Donovan says the internship “is helping me achieve my goal of developing professional skills,” and Sapphire  says, “we’re learning valuable skills that we can take into the workforce.”

Stefanie Pertiller (pictured above on the left) is working as a Self-Help Sustainability Intern, looking at improving energy efficiency in the Self-Help branches, while also working with Sapphire and Donovan on incorporating energy efficiency into the financial literacy program they are developing. She is also working with Hood Huggers on building more of an “immersive experience of urban agriculture,” working on educational programs for kids who come to the garden – and also working in the garden herself. Finally, she is doing outreach with about Self-Help to local envorionmental organizations, so that they learn about Self-Help’s work in lending to renewable energy and energy efficiency businesses and in focusing on being a “green” company themselves.

Finally, Talon Mays, a member of the Burton Street community and a student at UNC Asheville, is the Hood Huggers Marketing Intern. He is helping to increase grassroots marketing of Hood Tours, and doing market research for us, among other projects.

We are grateful to be working with this great team this summer!

Thank you!

Many thanks to everyone who attended and supported our Ancestors in the Garden event. It was an inspiring gathering. Click here for a gallery of beautiful photos from that day.

Melody Sufia and Santos
Jeff Pettus of the NC Arts Council with DeWayne Barton

Thanks again to our sponsors: North Carolina Arts Council, French Broad Food Co-op, Voices United and a number of generous individuals!

Ancestors in the Garden

Ancestors in the Garden
Saturday, June 3, 3 – 7 pm
Garden tours starting at 1 pm
Burton Street Community Peace Gardens, 47 Bryant St.
Join us for interactive performances, music, food, and more. Help celebrate the infrastructure improvements we’ve made in the garden. Click here for a Mountain Xpress story about the event!

Tickets are a suggested donation of $5. There are sponsor tickets available for $50.  CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS

May News


Ancestors in the Garden June 3
On Saturday, June 3, from 3 to 7 at the Burton Street Peace Gardens will be an event entitled “Ancestors in the Garden.” There will be interactive performances, food and music. Help celebrate the infrastructure improvements we’ve made in the garden. Tickets are a suggested donation of $5 each. There are $50 sponsor tickets available for those who want to support Hood Huggers and sponsor tickets for others.  Click here for tickets.

LEAF Community Arts
Hood Huggers is partnering with with LEAF Downtown to celebrate up-and-coming artists from historically African American neighborhoods by hosting a talent show at the festival with cash prizes. The dates of the festival are August 4 and 5. We are partnering with U-LEAF Home Run Series to promote block-party style events that will offer arts engagement, networking, and entrepreneurial opportunities.

Ghostlight Project May 7
Asheville Creative Arts and Hood Huggers will host a second conversation as part of The Ghostlight Project, Sunday, May 7, 2017 from 3 – 4pm at Burton Street Community Peace Gardens (47 Bryant Street), free and open to the public, with light refreshments. RSVP to The Ghostlight Project is a movement that asks us to examine and articulate our values as institutions, and what we see as the role of theatre and the arts in promoting space, both physically and intellectually, where we may gather and have open communication. Many theaters have missions and outreach that seek to address this gap, so how can we as leaders do better in expanding these efforts, and create the pipeline sought by Hood Huggers, so that truly all are welcome?


Summer Interns
Thanks to a partnership with Self-Help Credit Union, this summer Hood Huggers will have three interns that will have the opportunity to learn more about the pipeline of opportunity for their future careers. There will be a college-aged intern working with environmental outreach and two youth interns focused on financial literacy.

Green Book
We are currently expanding the Green Book black-owned business directory.

Convention & Visitor’s Bureau
We are partnering with the CVB to connect entrepreneurs with resources and exposure.

Peace Gardens Plant Sale
Stop by the Burton Street Community Peace Gardens, 47 Bryant Street, for our self-serve plant sale. There are still lots of great plants available


Hood Huggers is a part of these initiatives:

Energy Innovation Task Force
Community outreach campaign to encourage more energy efficient practices.

Everybody’s Environment
Everybody’s Environment is a collaboration of environmental and community groups in Western North Carolina, striving to foster equity and inclusion.

I-26 Expansion
Developing plans to make sure communities impacted by this project receive appropriate re-investment.

Urban Agriculture Alliance
The Urban Agriculture Alliance is a cross-sector collective impact initiative in Buncombe County working to develop a sustainable, resilient, and equitable local food system.

DeWayne Barton holding the Burton Street Community Plan. Photo by Maddy Jones for the Citizen-Times.


We continue to work with Shiloh, East End and Burton Street neighborhoods on the implementation of the Pearson Plan. Looking at the State of Black Asheville, the Pearson Plan serves as a road map for repairing communities and addressing  disparities, designed to meet the goals outlined in established community plans.


We are grateful for the support we receive that makes our work possible. Want to be a part of “Rebuilding Affrilachia?”
Here are two things you can do:

  1. Help spread the word about Hood Tours and the Pearson Plan!
  2. Make a donation – click here.

Until next time! Peace!


Audition for “Ancestors in the Garden”

Audition for “Ancestors in the Garden”
Audition for this site specific collection of original productions created by the cast about our past, present and hopes for the future.  Meet Saturday, March 18, 1 pm at Mt. Carmell Baptist Church, 26 Mardell Circle.  Actors, Poets, Musicians, Dances, Photographers, Artists of all kinds welcome. Be prepared to share a small sample of your work or talk with us about why you’re interested in being a part of this production. Ages 13 and up. No experience necessary.

Thanks to the NC Arts Council Mary B. Regan Community Artist Residency program for their support of this production.

Buncombe County Approves Funding for Two New Initiatives

Buncombe County Approves Funding for Two New Initiatives With the Potential to Positively Transform our Community

At their February 21 meeting, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners approved significant funding for a “Justice Resource Center diversion program for first-time, nonviolent offenders facing addiction and mental health problems…[and to the Isaac Coleman] Economic Community Investment Model that funds neighborhood projects and programs to create resilient, safe communities.”

Referring to the Isaac Coleman Model, Lisa Eby of Buncombe County Health and Human Services said, “The community needs to have resources to heal from within—it needs spaces where children see their neighborhoods as islands of hope. The former Reid Center was an island of despair until community activist DeWayne Barton pushed to have murals on what is now the Edington Center. ” That type of change, said Eby, is what is needed: “to invest in neighborhoods, in a community center, then connect that to schools, then develop pathways to economic opportunity.”

DeWayne Barton holding the Burton Street Community Plan. Photo by Maddy Jones for the Citizen-Times.

Representatives from Hood Huggers International and many other community leaders helped to make this significant County investment happen. We appreciate the Commissioners’ boldness, and we look forward to the momentum that can be gained with more resources.

Click here for a Citizen-Times article about these initiatives.
Click here for the Urban News coverage. 


Camille A. Brown and Dancers

Photo by Matt Karas

2016 Jacob’s Pillow Award-winning choreographer Camille A. Brown and Dancers perform at the Diana Wortham Theatre, Thursday Friday, February 16 & 17 at 8:00 p.m.  Ms. Brown is a versatile dancer and choreographer whose works range from light-hearted to spiritually based to politically charged to personal.

In addition to its evening performances, the company leads several educational and community residency activities during its Asheville tour stop:
– A free Community Workshop celebrating African-American social dance, February 16 at 4:00 the Arthur Edington Center;
– Pre-performance discussions led by poet, artist and community activist DeWayne Barton, at The BLOCK off Biltmore, prior to the evening performances; and
– Matinee Series performance for students, families, homeschoolers, and community groups, February 17 at 10:00 a.m.

Photo by Christopher Duggan

The Citizen-Times quotes Barton in this article:  “Black history, culture, told through dance.”

Barton, whose work with Hood Huggers supports and empowers historically black communities, said that, as a sculptor and poet, he deeply understands the value of self-expression through art.

“Art saved me,” he said. “It has a powerful way of connecting people or reaching across lines like very few things can do. But we take art for granted. I don’t think we use it to its full potential.”

But art — whether it’s dance, theater, visual exhibits — has always had a huge accessibility problem.

Young people need to first be introduced to the arts to make a connection with art, but not every child gets that opportunity — and that’s why organizations like Hood Huggers and Date My City and companies like Camille A. Brown & Dancers purposely seek out those communities to make that connection.

“You go into a neighborhood and you see a basketball court — you don’t see a stage or a platform for artists,” Barton said. “Sports have a long list of support, and they have the infrastructure for kids to practice. … How can we create that same culture around the arts so we can start identifying young artists like we do for young (athletes)?”