DeWayne Barton (also known as B-Love) started Asheville-based nonprofit Hood Huggers International to raise awareness of “Affrilachia”—the African-American communities in Appalachia. A key way he does it is through the organization’s Hood Tours, which shuttle participants in a brightly painted van through Asheville’s historically African-American neighborhoods. The tours highlight milestones of the city’s black history and ongoing innovations in the arts, culture, and business, among other fields, as do similarly themed walking tours.
Barton says that a main goal of Hood Tours is giving back to the community. “African-American neighborhoods in Asheville are being left behind,” he says. “There’s a lack of basic infrastructure, connections, and momentum. We’ve got to have more of that. Our mission is to help create it.” One way that Hood Huggers does this is through its Pearson Plan, which connects community members through the arts, environmental stewardship, and social enterprise to create sustainable infrastructure and lasting community relationships.
Barton’s own artistic background (he’s a sculptor and poet) links him with Asheville’s creative community. The arts “are the key part of the tour,” he says. “I read poems and take people to places where art is made and displayed. We look at the arts as a healing process, and there is some healing that has to be done.”
Hood Huggers Hood Tours: The 90 minute tours take place most Thursdays at 1p.m. and Saturdays at noon, with other times available by appointment. $25 driving tour/$20 walking tour, reservation required (828) 275-5305 www.hoodhuggers.com.