LOWER EAST SIDE COMMUNITY HERO
Nominated by Elissa Sampson
Corrinne Jennings arrived in New York City in the 1960s, ready to work as a Broadway Scene Designer. At a meeting with a Union rep, he told her there are “no Blacks or women and never would be.” In 1979 with Joe Overstreet and Samuel C. Floyd, Corinne opened Kenkeleba Gallery to support African American culture.
Kenkeleba House is an alternative art space, which includes Kenkeleba Gallery and The Wilmer Jennings Gallery. Its mission is to present, preserve, interpret and encourage the development of art by African Americans and the broader African Diaspora, as well as other artists overlooked by the cultural mainstream – Latinx, Asians, Native Americans, including mature artists that have not received proper recognition.
Kenkeleba began its work on The Bowery near Delancey in New York City with experimental projects to assist African American, Caribbean, and African artists in developing and documenting their work.Early projects included exhibitions and experiments with poetry, music, visual arts, workshops in dance, theater, children’s programs and African markets.
The name, Kenkeleba is derived from that of the Seh-Haw plant grown in West Africa, and known for its spiritual, nutritional and healing values.
When asked why she moved to the Lower East Side as a Black woman, she would point to the research that she had done on the history of the neighborhood and its deep ties to African roots from the time of enslavement and thereafter.
by Imani Vieira