W/ NKWANDA JAH
Nkwanda Jah is the director of the Cultural Arts Coalition in Gainesville, Florida. We met to discuss the mission of the CAC and its history. Of course we touched on recent events and the state of the nation and East Gainesville.
CULTRAL ARTS COALITION
COMPUTERS FOR KIDS
5TH AVE ARTS FESTIVAL
HISTORY OF THE CAC
Cultural Arts Coalition (CAC) grew out of the Fifth Avenue Arts Festival. CAC was incorporated in 1983 as a non-profit organization. CAC also works with at-risk children in its Summer Cultural Enrichment Program. In 1990, the City of Gainesville contracted with CAC to create a musical video to promote Recycling. The Video received State recognition in the ADDY Awards. It was later used by schools and community groups around the country.
Cultural Arts Coalition has addressed needs as a community based non-profit serving some of the most disadvantaged residents of Gainesville. CAC has served these needs with after school programs, cultural enrichment programs, youth employment and socioeconomic issues for a consistent 30+ years. We have built relationships with local government, community agencies, businesses and individuals. These agencies and individuals have made it possible to deliver services to the many residents throughout its existence.
In 1991 CAC created the Environmental Ambassadors (EA) Youth employment program. EA educates on the topic of environmental stewardship and, serve as a job training program. A couple of the projects have been stenciling storm drains, community cleanups and replacing traditional light bulbs in hundreds of homes with energy saving CFLs. Partners have included City of Gainesville CDBG, Gainesville Regional Utilities, Alachua County Solid Waste, Environmental Protection Dept, Univ of Fl Building and Construction. CAC sponsored their 2nd Annual Environmental Youth Summit hosting teens and college students resulting in community service projects throughout Gainesville.
In 1998 created a Girl Power (GP) Program. GP is offered to at risk girls ages 11 and 14. GP is designed to decrease the pregnancies and use of illegal substances and tobacco. We have formed partnerships with organizations such as; Corner Drugstore, Meridian, Planned Parenthood, University of Fl and Santa Fe College, to provide activities and programs
Girls meet weekly; Information is given by individuals and groups. Field trips to social and sports events are also used. They are constantly exposed to positive role models. I.e., Lawyers, doctors, elected officials and work with them regularly. These girls would not otherwise have these opportunities. Some of these women have been of national and international stature.
Girls are from single female headed households. 90% have little or no contact with their fathers. Many have had traumatic experiences like sexual abuse and exposure to family members who are drug dependents. GP Power offers them a supportive environment where they can develop healthy spirits and learn coping skills.
In 2000, CAC began a contract to manage the Wilhelmina Johnson Center where it had been housed since the early 1990’s. CAC grew the utilization of the facility from one organization using it for dance classes and one organization using it for meetings to multiple uses from arts to social events to community workshops. The building averages 500 uses each month. Classes have varied from piano to karate to dance. Rehearsals for activities varying from weddings to recitals have taken place at the Wilhelmina Johnson Center.
CAC works with other community organizations developing and supporting activities within the community such as Black AIDS Services and Education (BASE), Santa Fe College Downtown Center Advisory Board, Fifth Avenue Community Advisory Committee, Rosa Parks Quiet Courage Committee, Gainesville Job Corps and others.