Louisville leaders gathered for the grand opening of the new location of Roots 101: African American Museum on Whiskey Row Saturday.
Founder Lamont Collins said it’s been his dream to operate a space like Roots 101 that can offer a counter-narrative to the anti-Black stereotypes depicted in American media for more than 200 years.
“It’s a healing space,” Collins said during the opening ceremony. “We all come together and learn about our history as much as your history. Because we were the bulldozers before bulldozers. We were the jackhammers before jackhammers. And we were the engineers before engineering degrees. We built this place, and we have to make that known.”
Previously located a few blocks away on Museum Row, Roots 101 is filled with historical and artistic items collected by Collins over the course of 40 years. Vibrant portraits of Black Americans and Louisvillians, including Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, cover the walls of the museum’s second floor.
Louisville Metro Council member Jecorey Arthur described the museum’s new location in four words — big, bold, Black and beautiful.
Arthur said diversity initiatives taken by cities and companies up to this point often do little to address the root problems of racial disparities and fail to make Black people feel more comfortable.
“The fact of the matter is when you talk about diversity, equity and inclusion, what you see are some of these institutions … taking a Black face and putting it in a white space,” Arthur said. “And where you stand today, Roots 101, the Black faces that you see in this museum, they’re in a Black space.”
Mayor Greg Fischer said Whiskey Row businesses will benefit from Roots 101’s new location, and applauded Collins’ success with the museum. He said the pandemic and protests after Taylor’s death at the hands of police have prompted the city to reevaluate how it treats, and serves, its Black residents.
“We’ve got to show the country and show the world what a city looks like when you embrace our history, when you embrace a path toward racial equity,” Fischer said. “And that you do more than just talk about it, that you actually do something about it. And Roots 101 is a manifestation of that action for the whole world to see.”
Roots 101’s new, 10,500 square-foot location is at 124 N. First St.