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The Museum of Black Arkansans and Performing Arts Center in Little Rock (Pulaski County)—more commonly known as EMOBA, an acronym based upon its original name, Ernie’s Museum on Black Arkansans—is dedicated to preserving the heritage and culture of black Arkansans. EMOBA is the first black history museum in Arkansas to highlight, through exhibits, the history of African Americans in Arkansas and their contributions to the state. EMOBA’s purpose is to promote awareness of Arkansas’s black history and to create unity and personal pride within the community, schools, colleges, and universities by recognizing those black Arkansans who were the first or best in their fields, showcasing how black struggles and achievements have influenced the development of Arkansas. It is working to develop a performing arts theater to highlight and train African-American artists.
EMOBA was founded in March 1993 as a non-profit organization under the federal 501(c)(3) ruling. The founder, Ernie Dodson, was born in Little Rock and obtained her BS and MBA degrees from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR). That same year, the museum purchased the historic First Baptist Church for its campus. The museum’s three buildings and half-acre lot, consisting of three-quarters of a city block, are located in downtown Little Rock, between the block of 12th and 13th streets and Louisiana, adjacent to the historic Quapaw Quarter district. The museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Plans are for the First Baptist Church to be renovated into a performing arts theater. EMOBA currently operates from February until Labor Day, when it displays a changing exhibit, “Who’s Who in Arkansas Black History,” highlighting African Americans who have made significant contributions to both Arkansas and the country as a whole, such as “Geese” Ausbie, Eliza Jane Ashley, and Dr. Oba B. White. This exhibit draws approximately 1,500 visitors throughout the nearly six-month run.
In April 2005, EMOBA received a $10,000 grant from New Futures for Youth, Inc. The museum regularly hosts academic and professional meetings, as well as weddings and receptions.
Each May, EMOBA hosts the JamFest Heritage Festival, showcasing youth talent in sports or on the stage. During this festival, the museum hosts the Sidney Moncrief Sportsmanship and Volunteer Awards Luncheon. During the summer, the museum presents the Teens in Action (TIA) summer youth program to develop the creative talent of youth through lecture, discussion, demonstration, performance, and laboratory work. The museum also hosts the Haunted Cathedral each Halloween and has entered several award-winning floats in central Arkansas Christmas parades.
For additional information:“EMOBA: Ernie’s Museum of Black Arkansans.” Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau. http://www.littlerock.com/things-to-do/detail/emoba-ernies-museum-of-black-arkansans-and-pe (accessed October 27, 2015)..
Fretonzia HickmanLittle Rock, Arkansas
Last Updated 10/26/2016
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