Interview with Frederick “Hollywood” Delahoussaye
Frederick “Hollywood” Delahoussaye is the cultural co-director of Ashé Cultural Arts Center’s Kuumba Institute, a year-round program that provides critical arts training to New Orleans youth. This October, Hollywood attended the National Black Child Development Conference, and brought critical methodologies back to his programming work at Ashé. NPN’s Will Bowling sat down with Frederick to get a little background on his role at Ashé, and as a cultural leader and teacher in the Ashé community.
WB: To start, give us a little bit of background on yourself, where you’re from and your connection to New Orleans?
FD: I am a New Orleans native, born and raised in the Seventh Ward. I believe, that New Orleans is a cultural mecca. It’s a place where culture rises from the cracks in the concrete. Naturally, being around culture bearers and musicians the majority of my life, growing up in the St. Bernard housing development, it was a necessity. That led me to writing and what was going on in the youth movement in the late nineties.
WB: What type of culture bearers did you come up around in St. Bernard?
FD: Around that area the Yellow Pocahontas are legends. Big Chief Tootie Montana and those folks. You would wait outside his house for him to come out on Mardi Gras Day or on St. Joseph’s night. You had to wait for him to come out to see the suit, to see what he came up with. Of course also second line music and the different Social Aid and Pleasure clubs. My uncles and my father are in Social Aid and Pleasure clubs, so I grew up in that culture bearing environment.
WB: Did that put you on the path for leading a life in the arts in some way.
FD: Yeah, I think too, being from New Orleans we celebrate because it’s not only beautiful but it’s necessary for us. You become a part of that culture because it’s in your veins.
WB: How did you start to get involved with Ashé?
FD: Ashé was actually the place where we were able to put on the first spoken word reading after Hurricane Katrina. Ashé was the place that you could vent to somebody, if you needed some water, if you needed a hug, you needed to find out what was going on with aid and with FEMA. Ashé provided that connection to all of those things for artists and culture bearers. It also became a space where any inspiration that you may have had could blossom.
WB: Were you involved in the organization at all before the storm?
FD: Before the storm I visited Ashé of course, being the organization that it is, but I wasn’t really part of the team. My passion for youth was what brought me to Ashé, and the development of the Kuumba Institute, which is our youth initiative. At that time I was teaching spoken word poetry and as time when on, became the cultural co-director.
WB: Can you tell us a little bit about the Kuumba Institute?
FD: Kuumba Institute is the Ashé Cultural Art Center’s youth initiative. It’s a year-round program. We service youth ages of six to sixteen. They receive specialized training in visual arts, dance, film, photography, they do step classes, they do arts and crafts, they do drama, they do African drumming. We provide the students with meals, breakfast, lunch and a snack daily. We also do various means of artistic expression in a classroom setting. We are in the business of creating culturally responsible young people who can carry the torch.
Our curriculum is based on the Nguzo Saba, the seven principles of Kwanzaa. We try to think of those principles as affirmations for everyday life. We try to enhance the academic curriculum that they give in schools by integrating arts, through cultural arts and incorporating Louisiana benchmarks and standards and all of those things.
WB: You’re also creating a future generation of leaders for Ashé and for the community that Ashé serves.
FD: We try to make them world citizens who understand the different issues facing the world that are similar to the issues that they have at home, so they can think about positive change, for themselves and their surrounding community.
WB: Can you tell us a little about the National Black Child Development Conference and how it relates to the work that you’re doing with Ashé?
FD: A few years ago I attended the conference. It was, “Building Trusting Relationships That Engage and Empower Black Children and Their Families.” I thought, “That’s a bold statement, there’s so much that could go into that.” I really wanted to see what an in-depth, interactive workshop on that topic would look like. Some of the processes they put forth can be modeled to your specific neighborhoods and your specific practice. It really promoted a lot of positive practices within Kuumba.
I definitely want to develop a structural component to our parent engagement. I think it’s really important that we have our parents be as supportive as possible of the work that the children are doing, of the work that Ashé is doing, of the work that our community is doing. A lot of times, in our Saturday program I think parents are just happy to have their Saturday. They drop kids off at 8:30 and say, “I’ll see you at 4,” which is wonderful. We appreciate you trusting us and that you have a commitment to cultural activities, especially in a city like New Orleans, but at the same time I really want to focus on how to bring parents more to the table. I want them to have civil responsibility and what’s going on in the schools, what’s going on in the community, et cetera. I think there’s definitely…
This year as I was looking over the conference and there are a few different workshops and seminars that strategize black parenting and how it’s in the forefront of engagement and empowerment in early education. I myself am a father of a five- and an eight-year old, so I really was impressed to see an organization that’s not really an educational organization take a stand on the importance of that. There’s this idea that black fatherhood is non-existent in our world and guys are either called deadbeats or they’re just not around. We want to change that narrative. Number one, to redefine what those terms and what those perceptions are but also, to have more strategic ways for the ones who are not being engaged, to get engaged. I’m really interested in bringing that back to Kuumba.
NPN’s Mentorship and Leadership Initiative is awarded to staff of NPN Partner organizations, giving them the opportunity for professional growth. Each year an award is made in memory of NPN/VAN’s late Chief Operating Officer Wesley V. Montgomery, to an emerging leader of color whose project focuses on leadership and professional growth. Frederick “Hollywood” Delahoussaye is the FY16 recipient.
Supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.