The O. C. Haley Boulevard Merchants and Business Association, or OCHMBA, is the lead organization in a strategic plan to revitalize Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard, a historically significant and culturally rich commercial district in Central City adjacent to the Garden District and downtown New Orleans. A certified Louisiana Main Street organization and a designated Cultural District representative since 2006, OCHMBA was founded in the late 1990s when several nonprofits established themselves on the Boulevard to begin its revival.
Our mission is to cultivate economic sustainability throughout the organization’s service area by retaining and facilitating growth and enhancement of existing businesses; recruiting new enterprises consistent with the Afro-Caribbean arts and cultural vision of the community; developing diverse economic resources to assist member businesses, artists and culture bearers; and responding to the economic needs of the O. C. Haley Boulevard business and artisan community.
Part of our efforts to turn Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard and Central City from “the ’hood to the good” is our annual CENTRAL CITY FESTIVAL, which takes place on the third Saturday in November. First started in 2006, the Festival has been a time and place for us to celebrate the strengths of our culture and entrepreneurial spirit. The initial effort was a gospel festival, “Make a Joyful Noise,” that brought Central City churches together to “Increase the Peace” in the neighborhood.
Attendance has doubled every year, and in response to changes along the Boulevard, the Festival now celebrates the Boulevard’s diversity—and how far we have come since those early pioneering days of 1998! Last year’s lineup featured, among others, Central City’s own Jo “Cool” Davis, Kermit Ruffin, the Pinettes, and Boulevard newcomer, Irvin Mayfield.
We expect 5,000 attendees this year on the Boulevard, and we anticipate being able to host at least 30,000. Our plan is to make the Festival a premier event in New Orleans and the Gulf South, celebrating Community, Commerce and Culture—and the diversity that makes New Orleans a unique American city.
The Festival is the product of a unique collaboration of public officials, funders and community-driven nonprofits, from the Ashe' Cultural Arts Center to the Youth Empowerment Project, from Cafe' Reconcile to Good Work Network, and everyone in between. Even before Hurricane Katrina and the devastating failure of our city's levees, we have worked hard together to provide what is a model for community revitalization, moving from the 'hood to the good, offering development WITHOUT displacement by tapping residents' innate creativity and resourcefulness.
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