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Whether it's art, literature, bluegrass or blues, Black Kentuckians have had a hand in shaping it. The African American Folklorist explores that history by providing a more personal look at culture. Building upon the existing newspaper and podcast series, The African American Folklorist presents a chance to share lesser known stories of influential figures.

The African American Folklorist: Lamont Collins Discusses Roots 101 African American Museum

Lamont Collins Owner and Operator of Roots 101 African American Museum in Louisville, Kentucky.

Located at 124th N. 1st St. in Louisville, Kentucky, Roots 101 African American Museum is an incubator for African American history.

Its mission statement is, “To promote understanding and inspire appreciation of the achievement, contribution, and experiences of African Americans using exhibits, programs, and activities to illustrate African-American history, culture and art,” and that’s what they do.

The brainchild of Lamont Collins, who saw the need and urgency to exhibit the story of Black history, Roots 101 has taken Louisville and the museum world by storm.

With Collins' own African American memorabilia, along with black historic artifacts in music, sports and media donated by supporters of all ethnicities, Roots 101 holds the story of Black America.

Part two of an African American Folklorist interview with Lamont Collins of Roots 101 African American Museum in Louisville, KY.

Collins' commitment to community engagement has solidified Roots 101 as the home of the Breonna Taylor Memorial. A designated space for healing, Roots 101 African American museum not only features notable items, but they also host a slew of events and streams an in-house broadcast titled, “The Healing Process Series,” which discusses legacy in the Louisville community, and highlights the growth of the people.

Here's an exerpt from our conversation with Collins:

Lamont Jack Pearley: ….what you're doing here is extremely important. Please talk to us give us the mission statement of Roots 101.

Lamont Collins: Well I call it Roots 101 because in higher education, the first class you take is a 101 and Roots101 is an educational journey as you go through the museum. It lets you know that we're descendants of kings and queens that were enslaved in America, if I was using a model for what we're doing for museum challenges all of us black, white, brown people, grey people who whatever color people, we change them to be better ancestors, it will all become better ancestors, maybe a better place a better country and a better life for that we have to do better and to do better, we have no better. And that's Roots 101’s responsibility.

Lamont Jack Pearley: How important is it that more than just the black community is supporting your endeavor?

Lamont Collins: It's everything, not just financially, it's everything spiritually, educationally. It's everything. When we can break the myth of supremacy. What do I mean by that? I call it re educating white America educating black America.

Lamont Jack Pearley: So what was the actual starting point what inspired you or ignited you to take on this feat?

Lamont Collins: Wow. You know, it was more of a responsibility than a feat. I think when I grew up, we lived in a predominately white neighborhood when I was a teenager, and I found history as a way of, of dealing with attitudes to identify who I was. And to put that that image in front of people that didn't know it.

Lamont Jack Pearley: After watching a documentary at age 10, Lamont was inspired to research and collect African American memorabilia, which would later become exhibits in roots 101 African American Museum.

Lamont Collins: My mother worked in the armed force examination Center, which was what it took in new soldiers and Muhammad Ali came in, he was Cassius Clay then, and he was going into service, and he gave her autograph "Cassius Clay.” She brought it home and gave it to me. From that point on, Lamont, I collected baseball, football, basketball, black politician was just something that I was just you know, and always had a museum in my home. And now I'm 62 years old. I'm listening to NPR radio, a young man came on radio talking about he had a museum in California. He shut it down because urban renewal and he had 12 railroad cars of history in his backyard in the Mojave Desert. And I looked at my wife and said “I’m gonna call him.” She said, “you’re not going to call him.” And before she came back out of the grocery store. I had him on the phone and said, “I’m Lamont Collins in Louisville, and I'm going to just what you did here in Louisville, Kentucky.” And we did you know one of the ranked top 20 museums in the world.

Lamont Jack Pearley: You mentioned that you were a collector. So I have to ask you, at any point, did you realize that you were an ethnographer or folklorist since you're literally preserving our story?

Lamont Collins: No. But I knew what the narrative was. I knew how important our narrative was. And as a young boy, I always knew the importance of our narrative. That's why I had to know our story. The downside is I would love to see more people that look like us support us. And that's just something psychological we have to fight through.

Lamont Jack Pearley is an applied folklorist, ethnographer and African American traditional music historian and practitioner enrolled at WKU in the African American and Folk Studies programs. He is an African American Studies Ambassador with the African American Studies Department, hosts a weekly segment on WKU Public Radio called the African American Folklorist, and is the editor of the African American Folklorist Newspaper. He was inducted into the New York Blues Hall of Fame as Great Blues Historian and TV/Radio Producer (2017) and Great Blues Artist (2018).
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