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Summer Interns

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)?”

Fall 2016 Updates

Hood Huggers International
Updates Fall 2016
Rebuilding Affrilachia: The Art of Resilience

HoodHuggersHood Huggers International implements the Pearson Plan, offering sustainable strategies for building support pillars for resilient historically African-American neighborhoods, providing a framework for community capacity building while increasing the effectiveness of existing service programs. These strategies incorporate the arts, social enterprise, and the environment, building a culture of stability that inclusive and economically just.

Who We Serve: The Hood Huggers’ Pearson Plan uses a comprehensive, collaborative approach, working with individuals in historically African-American neighborhoods to build internal systems of support and capacity. We also work with organizations and individuals with resources, providing guidance on how to serve in ways that have a greater impact. Our work with these internal (community) and external (service providers) systems creates a new paradigm where communities determine what resources they need and want, and guide how the programs that serve them function.  

The Arts:

  • Hood Tours is an interactive tour of the history, present, and future of Asheville’s historically African-American neighborhoods. Tours incorporate poetry and music and highlight public art, artists, and cultural heritage assets in these neighborhoods. From January until November 2016, over 650 people have taken tours.
  • Partnership with LEAF Community Arts provided the ULEAF stage/sound system and Easel Rider activities for the Hillcrest Juneteenth Celebration (June) and the Burton Street Agricultural Fair (September), and Deaverview (October). Hood Huggers also curated performers for the ULEAF stage at LEAF Downtown (August).
  • Collaboration with Organic Synergy and Asheville Music Professionals led to a successful 8-week Inside/Out performing arts workshop to build foundations for a pipeline for careers in the entertainment business for neighborhood-based talents. Monthly breakfasts to build on this knowledge are now being held, and participants for future workshops are being identified.
  • Partnership with the YMI Cultural Center’s Goombay Festival (September) led to a Goombay Art Show in the YMI Gallery, featuring local artists of color. In addition, Inside/Out participants performed on both stages during the festival.
  • Provided a Hood Tour and poetry workshop to Word on the Street, a multicultural teen-run online magazine (August).
  • Working with the African American Heritage Commission and Green Opportunities on a plan to build and place historical markers throughout the community.
  • Our plan includes working with arts organizations on neighborhood-based public art.
  • The North Carolina Arts Council awarded DeWayne Barton a Mary B. Regan Residency grant. It will be used to renovate the Burton Street Community Peace Gardens, adding a performance space and more. It will also provide seed money to support art and history projects in the Shiloh and East End neighborhoods (October 2016-October 2017).
  • Signage and lights to be installed on the E.W. Pearson mural on the Burton St. Center.
  • Historical landmark sign and installation of a bell at Mount Carmel Baptist Church.
  • Sculpture entitled “Terminator” on display as a part of the Inside a Town with People show at Push Skate Shop Gallery (October – November).
  • Hood Huggers creates platforms for creative expression and pride, using the arts to contribute to community healing.

Social Enterprise:

  • Hood Tours is a social enterprise that creates opportunities for young people and supports small businesses, helping to spark more grassroots economic development.
  • Hood Tours provides a model for other businesses to learn from.
  • We maintain and distribute the Hood Huggers Green Book, a directory of African-American led organizations and businesses.
  • Another key initiative is a pilot financial literacy program in partnership with Self-Help Credit Union, IRL, City of Asheville, community members and parents. Students will develop basic financial management skills and tap into a pipeline for careers in finance or entrepreneurship (Fall 2016 semester).
  • Developing a working partnership with Asheville City Schools.
  • Twelve young people are participating in the Hood Huggers savings program. They are paid stipends for work done with Hood Huggers, and the money they choose to save is matched at the end of each month.
  • Future plan for the development of a youth-led credit unions.
  • We work to connect existing youth programs with each other and with businesses and volunteers in our target neighborhoods, providing a platform for youth skill-building and mentorship.

The Environment:

  • Hood Tours highlights neighborhood green spaces and community gardens.
  • Establish additional green spaces to help strengthen community connections to nature.
  • We are partnering with Everybody’s Environment to support the creation of a pipeline for African-American youth to pursue careers in the environmental field.
  • Member of the Urban Agriculture Alliance, an alliance supporting urban agriculture initiatives to address root causes of poverty, injustice, and inequity within the local food system while utilizing a collective impact framework.
  • Hood Huggers is aligning with the United Nations’ Goals for Sustainable Development.
  • Member of the I-26 ConnectUs Project. Advocating for equity in community reinvestment
    and opportunities in the historically African American neighborhoods that are impacted.
  • Helping to establish Smith Mill Creek as a greenway connected to other greenways.
  • Part of an Environmental Task Force investigating the possibility of working with Duke Energy to promote public education on lowering carbon footprints.

Thanks to Our Financial Supporters:
Buncombe County Health & Human Services
Amy Madel and Katina Rodis Fund
The Lawson Family
North Carolina Arts Council

Want to Engage with Hood Huggers?
1. Join our email list for updates and event announcements.
Take a Hood Tour or two (different options available).
3. Encourage others to take Hood Tours.
4. List your black-owned business in the Hood Huggers Green Book.
5. Support the businesses and organizations in the Hood Huggers Green Book.
6. Rent the Burton Street Community Peace Gardens for an event.
7. Have other ideas? Let’s talk!