March 7, 2017  |  Civic Engagement Cultural Awareness New Orleans Social Capital

Baakir Tyehimba

My name is Baakir Tyehimba. I was blessed with the privilege of birthing BlackStar, a gift of life the community could rally around to nurture as it cares for us. Born and raised in Algiers — a neighborhood located on the West Bank of the Mississippi River in New Orleans — I own and operate BlackStar Books and Caffe, a lively space that serves lunch, coffee, and drinks, and also celebrates “African” culture through book discussions, movie screenings, and live music.

Algiers is a predominantly African-American area that’s developing into a cultural and economic district known as Little Afraka. Through my cafe and the development of the African Centered Education Network, I and others in his community aim to encourage people of African descent to study, observe, and celebrate their heritage and cultural traditions. African wisdom teaches us that children are a gift to the community. They are the gifts that give back and prolong the life and vitality of the community. Therefore, it is vitally important that the community embraces the full responsibility of rearing healthy children.

BlackStar has served as a consistent gathering hub and nourishing home for all walks of members of our community. We provide space for strategy meetings, social gatherings, classes and workshops, performances, screenings, book clubs, and study groups as well as being a wonderful place to have a good lunch or early light supper. In our efforts to define our community as Little Africa and usher in more businesses and institutions to support and sustain it’s people and culture, BlackStar has also been hosting small street festivals and celebrations that emphasize the values and joys of our community. As we continue forward, we have determined some initiatives to implement (some already in motion, some starting soon) for greater community strength.

BlackStar has expanded, for what has been a little more than a year now, to house a separate market shop area called the Soko Mahali where we sell Afrakan­centric clothing and accessories, body butters,herbs, incense and oil, jewelry, and art. Our community library, though not entirely complete, has been used for home school groups, story circles, book clubs, and play dates. We’ve also started our Saturday school for cultural enrichment and community building skills. Finally, we’re planning to get the Algiers Family Heritage project in motion. While there’s plenty work to be done, the people of Little Africa continue to be the village/community to raise BlackStar and BlackStar will continue to take care of the community. As we continue to expand we look forward to developing more programs for families in our direct and wider community that encourage racial, cultural, and community pride.

Make time to come black home!

BlackStar serves as a gathering place and nourishing home for members of our community.

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