for African American Heritage (KCAAH)
The Kentucky Center for African American Heritage is the result of a collection of African American educators, artist, and historians who have collaborated to give the long-dormant history of African Americans in their region the voice and platform it deserves. This group evolved from the Louisville and Jefferson County African American Heritage Committee into its current mold, with a single unifying goal of promoting the Kentuckiana region’s black heritage.
In 1994, The African American Heritage Foundation (AAHF) had the initial goal of encouraging the preservation of African American sites, communities and culture. This began with the preservation of historic structures in the African American community, and the recognition of important sites through its historic marker program. Now, the AAHF has opened a Center, located at 18th and Muhammed Ali Blvd. in Louisville, Kentucky. The Center is dedicated to the sole purpose of showcasing these triumphs. Here, African American history has the platform to share its monumental achievements with the community in which it took place.
KCAAH’s goals are to enhance the public’s knowledge about the history, heritage and cultural contributions of African Americans in Kentucky. In addition to its commitment to preserving the traditions and accomplishments of the past, the Center is a vital, contemporary institution, providing space for performances of all types.
From the 1920s to the 1950s, Old Walnut Street in downtown Louisville was a center for African American culture and business in the region. Black-owned businesses thrived, and the musical venues and theatres brought people of all cultures to the area. Urban renewal in the ‘50s ended much of this, but we haven’t forgotten our past.
In 1994, the African American Heritage Foundation (AAHF) began with the initial goal of preserving African American sites, communities, and culture. This started with the preservation of historic structures in the African American community in Louisville, as well as the use of historic markers to recognize important sites.
The Kentucky Center for African American Heritage is the next step in this process of preservation, with the added goal of acting as a source of revitalization and education for the Kentucky African American community and beyond. An evolution of the Louisville and Jefferson County African American Heritage Committee, the Heritage Center is a place for African American spoken word, visual and performing artists, to collaborate and give the rich heritage of African Americans the voice and platform they deserve.
The Heritage Center’s campus sits on the historic Louisville Street Railway Complex, a centerpiece for the fight for transportation equality in 1876. Since the renovation of the 55,000 sq. foot campus, we’ve worked to raise public awareness about the history, heritage, and cultural contributions of African Americans in Kentucky and in the African Diaspora. The Heritage Center is also a vital, contemporary institution, providing space for exhibitions and performances of all types.
Located at 18th and Muhammad Ali Boulevard, the Heritage Center overlooks the area that once was Old Walnut Street. This area holds special significance for Kentuckiana’s African American community. Through the efforts of the Heritage Center, with help from the community, we hope to make it a place of cultural significance once more. The Kentucky Center for African American Heritage is dedicated to the sole purpose of showcasing our community’s triumphs. Here, African American history has the platform to share its monumental achievements with the community in which they took place.
KCAAH’s goals are to enhance the public’s knowledge about the history, heritage and cultural contributions of African Americans in Kentucky, and in the African Diaspora. In addition to its commitment to preserving the traditions and accomplishments of the past, the Center is a vital, contemporary institution, providing space for exhibitions and performances of all types.
Arts & Culture
The preservation and sharing of African American culture is one of the KCAAH’s primary goals. Through art installations, interactive exhibits, and provocative works by prominent visual and performing artist, we seek to both pay homage to the rich cultural heritage of African American in Kentucky, as well as address contemporary issues facing communities throughout the African Diaspora.
The Heritage Center’s education programs are available to children and adults alike. We regularly host class trips from local schools, but our plans for education go beyond that. Our long-term plans include recording studios where students can learn the craft of the music industry; trade workshops where they can learn carpentry and construction; as well as a black box theatre where students can learn not only how to act on stage, but also skills they can use to handle the backstage aspects of both live theatre and film. We even have a state-of-the-art computer lab and genealogy center, where students can learn about the future of technology and their own family history.
KCAAH is also a venue and locus for community-focused public events. We start each year with the Walnut Street Revue, a music and cultural festival celebrating the rich musical history of Kentucky’s African American community. During both Black History Month and Women’s History Month, we provide lectures, film programs, author series, and exhibits by local and national artists. You can also join us for Family Fun Day at least three times per year, which features music, dance, face painting, and even a portable planetarium. We finish each year off with our Holiday Festival, a celebration full of children’s programming, local food and music, and an opportunity to meet Santa. For more information, look at our calendar of events.
The Center is a place of community celebration, but also of personal celebration. We offer a variety of rental venues for weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, cocktail hours, parties, concerts, and corporate events. Our buildings have a rich history, and you can see it in the architecture and feel it in the air. To learn more about our venues, visit our event venues page.
Our leadership team’s goal is to use the Center to revitalize the Russell neighborhood into a modern arts and culture district in the city of Louisville, as well as to promote African American history and culture throughout Kentucky.
Aukram serves as a member of the KCAAH’s executive management team, advancing the mission to enhance the public’s knowledge about the history, heritage and cultural contributions of African-Americans in Kentucky and in the African Diaspora. Aukram is a skilled and seasoned educator and media artist specializing in developing educational and cultural resources. His resume includes extensive experience in secondary and post-secondary education, including the classroom, administration, executive planning, and media production. His educational background includes studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Center for Advanced Visual Studies; the University of Massachusetts, Boston; Center for International Education at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Aukram is no stranger to the non-profit world. In 1984, he and his wife, Nefertiti Burton, co-founded the non-profit organization, Middle Passage Educational and Cultural Resources, Inc. in Boston, Massachusetts. Middle Passage provided media support services, produced and distributed educational and cultural materials both independently and in collaboration with schools, businesses and community organizations.
Aukram’s work as an educator, photographer and media producer has taken him around the globe. His work depicts people, places, and events in Brazil, China, Colombia, Cuba, Ghana, Haiti, Jamaica, Japan, Nigeria, Panama, Senegal, South Africa, Tibet and countless places throughout the United States. He has years of experience producing interdisciplinary content for educators on all educational levels to improve their understanding and practice of global and multicultural education across the curriculum.
He is the recipient of numerous recognitions and awards for his work as an educator and media artist, and has served on numerous boards, including the African American Heritage Foundation Board.
Chief Operating Officer
Serving as a member of the executive management team since September 2015, Mitchell advances the statewide mission, position, growth and impact of the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage as a cultural arts and heritage center, and as a catalyst for tourism and economic development for the historic Russell neighborhood.
Mitchell is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the nonprofit cultural arts and heritage institution, which includes business administration; performance and event venue sales; food and beverage; exhibitions and trade show management; visitor and member services; retail; and security.
Mitchell previously served eleven years as the President and Chief Executive Officer, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, and Program Manager for the Louisville Enterprise Group, Inc. (LEG), the nonprofit community development corporation affiliate of the Louisville
Development Bancorp, Inc.
Prior to LEG, Mitchell served two years as the State Sales and Training Coordinator for the Kentucky Lottery Corporation, and nine years as an Assistant Vice President and Retail Banking Officer at two of the region’s community banks.