NEW ORLEANS (WGNO)- Along this refurbished stretch of Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. lives the hub of of culture in Central City known as the Ashe’ Cultural Arts Center.
Carol Bebelle is the Executive Director of Ashe’. She co-counded the center, along with the late Douglas Redd, and she says Ashe’ was conceived to provide an ownership of the culture.
Says Bebelle, “There wasn’t a place that was ours. For Doug, it was the fact that he wanted to be someplace where he didn’t have to ask a white person for a key to be able to get in. To this day I have a key to the front door for that reason. It was so important to him. In a certain kind of way and as an extension, it was the same thing for other African Americans in the community.In a city that draws so much of it’s economic and international strength from culture, to be in a situation where all of the cultural institutions, place based organizations were led by people other than folks who were so much a part of providing the culture.”
Ashe’ occupies three spaces as Ashe’, Ashe’ Too, and The brand new Ashe’ Powerhouse performance center. And while Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. now enjoys a renaissance of sorts, this was not always the case.
“In terms of lifestyle of the street, however, we had sex workers, drug transactions that were going on, and you had this collection of churches who were doing reclamation ministries working to help people to understand that they didn’t have to settle for these kinds of lives,” according the Bebelle.
Into this auspicious environment Ashe’ was born in 1998. The late Douglas Redd was the artistic driving force behind Ashe’ His work touched many facets of our community from Jazzfest to Tambourine and Fan community organization.
He was considered by many a genius, in touch with his heritage. It’s no wonder why the center started on firm footing.
Bebelle remembered, “Doug was like a quiet storm. (He was) brilliant past people’s capacity to even comprehend. He was so terribly committed to Africa and Africanaity and its presence in himself, and its presence in the community.”
Douglas Redd died of cancer in 2007, but the work of Redd and Bebelle lives today in the vibrant center that is the Ashe’ Cultural Arts Center.
The Ashe Cultural Arts Center is located at 1712 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., New Orleans, LA 70113