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Rapides Parish Library Unveils Central Louisiana African American Culture & Heritage Center

Alexandria, LA (2/25/2024) – The Rapides Parish Library (RPL) marked a momentous occasion on Saturday, February 24th, with the grand opening of the Central Louisiana African American Culture & Heritage Center at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library Branch.

The event drew an enthusiastic crowd, with standing room only, as attendees gathered to celebrate and honor the rich legacy of African Americans in Central Louisiana.

The festivities commenced with an electrifying performance by the Pineville Elementary Drum line, led by the talented Kevin Johnson, setting the tone for a memorable evening. As anticipation mounted, the grand opening ceremony turned the spotlight on the unveiling of a meticulously curated portrait gallery, paying homage to African Americans who have made exceptional contributions to industry, government, and culture in the region.

Guided by the expertise of internationally recognized artist Morris Taft Thomas, and leveraging his extensive network of top national and international artists, six esteemed creatives collaborated to produce the first thirteen portraits for the AACHC Portrait Gallery.

The distinguished individuals honored in the gallery include:

  • Arnaud Wendall Bontemps
  • Principal David Iles
  • J. B. LaFargue
  • Colonel Katrina Lloyd
  • Oliver “Ollie” Overton
  • Juan Pierre
  • Dr. James Jordan Prestage, Jr.
  • Dr. Jewel Limar Prestage
  • Natalie Desselle Reid
  • Reverend Larry Douglas Smith
  • Dr. Clarence Talley, Sr.
  • Amos Wesley, Jr.
  • Dr. Romel C. Wrenn

These captivating portraits, capturing the essence and achievements of each honoree, were masterfully crafted by a cadre of six world-class artists: Edward Barnes, Kylen Guilbeaux, Fannietta Johnson, Joseph Anthony Pearson, Dr. Clarence Talley, Sr., and Crystal Ann Talley.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Library Branch, located at 1115 Broadway Avenue in Alexandria, now stands as a beacon of cultural preservation and recognition, inviting visitors to immerse themselves in the stories and legacies of Central Louisiana’s African American community.

The establishment of the Central Louisiana African American Culture & Heritage Center represents a significant milestone in the ongoing effort to honor and celebrate diversity, ensuring that the contributions of African Americans to the region’s history and heritage are duly recognized and cherished for generations to come.

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