In the decade following Dr. King’s assassination in Memphis, many black-led organizations that faced challenges to thrive on their own, began an alliance of 19 black arts organizations led by Bennie Nelson West. Today, the MBAA is dedicated to the “…preservation, celebration and advancement of African American arts, culture and literature…” according to West’s successor, current executive director, Lar’Juanette Williams.
The Memphis Black Arts Alliance (MBAA) has been supporting and celebrating local black artists for decades. Founded in 1982 and housed in a historic fire station on South Bellevue Boulevard, the Memphis Black Arts Alliance is at the gateway to Soulsville.
The MBAA is in the business of preserving Memphis world-renowned cultural vitality and displaying it so that current artists can treasure and be inspired by it. The MBAA’s symbol is the Sankofa bird, which represents planning for the future, the wisdom in learning from the past to ensure a strong future.
Serving the community from start to finish, the MBAA serves as a collaborator, developer, and offers exhibition space. They serve artists of all disciplines including authors, dancers, choirs, actors, culinary artists and everyone in-between. The firehouse is also used as a community space for gatherings and an incubator for growing art organizations.
As Executive Director Lar’Juanette Williams states, the “MBAA is the grandmother of the 21st Century African American Artists in Memphis and we stand to help, support, and nurture our artists to successful futures.”