From left, Walter Hitchcock, Business Development manager, Chattanooga Coca-Cola; Elijah Cameron, director of Community Relations, Bessie Smith Cultural Center; Yusuf Hakeem, Board chairman, Bessie Smith Cultural Center; Paula Wilkes, president, Bessie Smith Cultural Center; Jack Sherman, Sales Center manager, Chattanooga Coca-Cola; and Avery Smith, Key Account developer, Chattanooga Coca-Cola
Coca-Cola has donated $25,000 to the Bessie Smith Cultural Center for the Museum Vision.
During the pandemic the Bessie Smith Cultural Center staff has been working to create partnerships amongst many businesses and individuals. With these partnerships has come a great deal of fundraising for the Bessie’s Phase One of reinvention. Phase One includes renovating the Chattanooga African American Museum located in the Bessie Smith Cultural Center to better tell the story of African Americans in Chattanooga throughout history. This story will walk each visitor through time, beginning with slavery and ending with today and the future.
Phase One is projected to cost $300,000 and while a good portion of those funds have been raised, more is needed to complete the project. Phase Two will include renovations to the Vilma Fields Atrium to expand on the current Bessie Smith exhibit and to add exhibits on other well-known African American entertainers from Chattanooga. Some of those include Russell Goode, Roland Carter, Valaida Snow, The Impressions, Samuel L. Jackson, Usher, Roland Hayes, and many others.
“Chattanooga Coca-Cola is extremely excited about the Vision and future development of the Bessie Smith Cultural Center," said Jack Sherman, sales center manager, Chattanooga Coca Cola. "The BSCC has been an icon in the Chattanooga community for a very long time and we are very excited to partner with them to enhance the experience at the Center as well as continue to celebrate the amazing accomplishments of the African American community.”
The Bessie is seeking other partnerships to complete both phases and to help share the story. For more information, please contact Paula Wilkes, president of the Bessie Smith Cultural Center at 266-8658.