The Board of Directors of Buffalo’s African-American Cultural Center announced recently that it has selected a new Executive Director and welcomes Tina Washington-Abubeker to the agency.
“I am honored and excited to serve an agency that has been an anchor for the Black community and the City of Buffalo for the last 57 years and I envision the African American Cultural Center reaching great heights; carrying on the work and honoring the legacy of ancestors who have come before us and paved the way,” said Ms. Washington-Abubeker.
She was referring to the late Agnes Bain, beloved “keeper of the culture” who served as Executive Director for the last 41 years; long time Board member Sis. Gwen “Iyetta” Neal, and arts patron Lorna C. Hill.
“I am committed to giving back and making a difference,” she continued. “We were often told by my late father (community worker William H.T. Washington, Jr.), ‘to whom much is given, much is expected.’ “
Ms. Washington- Abubeker’s position is effective immediately.
She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the Syracuse University Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Policy, a Juris Doctorate from the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Law (UB), and she is ABD for a Doctor of Philosophy from the State University of New York at Buffalo in Global Gender Studies.
Her academic studies are diverse and include African and African-American history, diaspora, race, economic, and social justice. She has taught at UB as both an adjunct faculty and teaching assistant. Washington-Abubeker is widely travelled and has studied at Addis Ababa University, in Ethiopia.
Although her family originates from the Carolinas, she is a daughter of this community with roots grounded here. A member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, she attends True Bethel Baptist Church, and is the mother of three sons, a “daughter-in-love” and “Glam-ma” to a baby girl, each a great source of pride.
Challenger: What made you apply for the position?
Washington-Abubeker: The African American Cultural Center is and always has been an anchor for this city and our community. I believe in the agency mission and I am passionate about the work of the Center. I looked to my predecessor, Agnes Bain as a mentor. I am honored to be in this position, and it is my intention to further the legacy of the ancestors on whose shoulders we firmly stand. One of the ways we honor them is by carrying on endeavors that they labored and sacrificed to realize.
Challenger: What are some of the services the center currently provides?
Teaching history, culture, traditions, and observing rites of passage; teaching and performing traditional African Dance and Drum ; providing after school and summer programs for youth; supporting theater arts with our Paul Roberson Theater; administering pass thru funds for many programs and organizations; hosting the annual Pine Grill Reunion, Co-hosting Juneteenth and other festivals such as Taking it to the Streets, Jazz and Gospel Festivals.
Challenger: Speaking of the annual Pine Grill Reunion…. In light of the pandemic, will there be a Reunion this year ?
Yes…we will host our annual Pine Grill Jazz Reunion this year but it will be a virtual Pine Grill Reunion with a live streamed web concert featuring local bands streamed live on Zoom, Facebook, and Instagram.
The theme is ‘Coming to You Live with Jazz & Jive.’ Although it will not be held in Martin Luther King Jr. Park, it will still be live jazz and it will still be a reunion – just virtual – on both Sundays August 2 and 9!
Challenger : what are your short-range plans for the center?
We are currently working on several projects. On July 20 we will launch our AACC 4-week Virtual Summer Enrichment Program. Our staff is putting together educational and creative activities that are exciting and fun to be done at home. Please join us for this on Facebook, Instagram, or our website at www.aaccbuffalo.org during the weeks of July 20, July 27, August 3, and August 10.
In addition, we are planning, and making preparation for the re-opening of our onsite programs (the date to be announced). Of course, we will observe all the CDC, NYS, and local health department guidelines as continuing with the same programming that we had [pre-Covid].
Further we will be planning for building and cultivating an expansive African American Cultural Center Campus, our future goals will center around this capital development.
Challenger: how do you envision the cultural center in the future?
With the expansion in size, we will be able to serve the community at an even greater capacity allowing for more participants in all components. For example, we will have classrooms for teaching, after school, and summer programs. There will be both interactive and display museums with archival facilities for the preservation of Pan African and Diaspora artifacts, relics and historical memorabilia. A larger Paul Roberson Theater can fit more patrons and expand the theatrical experience by having classrooms for teaching acting. The dance & drumming component will have a venue to teach and perform onsite. We can also provide for other kinds of performances and include other genres of the Arts such as an African American visual art gallery.
Finally, I envision the AACC campus having facilities to host both indoor and outdoor concerts and a courtyard. By being situated in our current location between Frank Merriweather Library/cultural base of Jefferson Avenue and the historical Michigan Corridor/Underground Railroad, the African American Cultural Center Campus will be another treasure to complement the historical sites that we already cherish in the City of Buffalo, further solidifying our designation as one of the top venues for African/ African American history and culture.
Challenger: How Do You Think Your Background Best Prepares You To Head The Center?
Washington-Abubeker: I feel as though I have been groomed for this position by people who have invested in me. From growing up as an adolescent at Agape AME church on Northland Avenue to participating in the Miss Young, Gifted, and Black pageant. While in college, I volunteered with the North Region Black Political Caucus doing community service with my surrogate grandmother Hazel Franks and working on campaigns for the Honorable Hugh B. Scott, the Honorable Rose H. Sconiers, and the Honorable Barbara Howe who served as my mentors. In my final year at Syracuse University, I had the privilege of serving as a legislative intern in Albany for the former Deputy Speaker of the New York Assembly, Arthur O. Eve. I also volunteered with my mother, Randi Washington-Massey when she worked as a Legislative Assistant to the former Masten District Councilman David A. Collins.
As a Court Liaison for Women for Human Rights and Dignity, Inc. I honed organizational abilities. While working as a Community Organizer for Citizen Action and as the Director of the Buffalo Provider Network I also acquired knowledge of the programmatic and financial operations of community organizations.
Challenger: Any final comments?
Washington-Abubeker: I credit almighty God for the opportunities I have been afforded and I’m grateful for mentors and family, including my mother and community folk who have imparted wisdom, advice support and inspiration.
I care about our community, especially the youth, who need positive, productive environments, and services. I have been taught to know my worth yet be humble and be of service. I believe that the devastation and loss caused by COVID has made us all reflect on our own lives and the world that we live in. As an optimist, I hope that there will be a social awakening after coming out of COVID which will require us to think beyond ourselves – to organize, volunteer, and become active to make a difference.
(keep up with the center online at AACCBUFFALO.ORG