MACON, Ga. (AP) – When Homeland Village Cultural Center opened in 2001 in Unionville, Kirklyn Hodges wanted to provide a safe place for people to gather and learn about African American history.
“The Black population in this area has been so disenfranchised, and they deal with a lot of despair. So, I wanted to do something that will kind of remedy that problem that we have,” he said.
Although he had to close the store for a few years, Hodges reopened around a year ago with the same mission in mind.
“Homeland Village is a little more than a business. It’s like a refuge. It’s a place where people of like minds can come and sit around and share ideas and work on solutions that are directly affecting our community,” Hodges said.
Most people in Macon don’t know about African culture or history that extends beyond slavery, Hodges said.
“Our history is very rich. It’s very deep. It goes way back beyond the 400 years that we’ve been here,” he said. “It’s very important for us to tell our, at least tell it to our children, so they can have a better sense of who they are.”
BACKED BY THE COMMUNITY
When Hodges started Homeland Village, he started with his own money and his own experience, so he said he suffered many setbacks.
He was a construction worker and working construction on the side helped him keep the business going, but he simply was not receiving enough support.
“For years, I had to just kind of shut down to revamp myself,” he said. “Within the last couple of years or so, I started getting a little support.”
He had people volunteer to help him get the business running again, and he still has people volunteering for him.
Plus, he said people are becoming more conscious of their health.
“With COVID, it really kind of shook a lot of people up, woke a lot of people up to say, ‘Okay, my health is my wealth. If I don’t have health, I’m really struggling,’” he said.
He calls the business the village because he said it’s a community of people who take car of each other.
“We want to create a vibe, an energy that people can relate to, where they can feel at peace,” he said. “The world is cold out there. There’s no question about that, and I feel like it’s getting colder every day and somebody’s got to do something to counter that because if we all just talk about the problem without even trying to seek any solutions. Then the problems keep manifesting and multiplying.”
WHAT THE VILLAGE HAS TO OFFER
Homeland Village, at 2910 Napier Avenue, is open from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday and 1-6 p.m. Sunday.
They specialize in health and beauty products, including shea butter and black soap, as well as African clothes and memorabilia.
They also provide programming for youth and teach kids how to play chess and tennis, and they allow local groups to meet in the business, he said.
“We just make the place like a safe haven and meeting place where people can come and discuss issues to improve the quality of their life,” he said.
Although he is still trying to build his business, Hodges said business is getting better.
“I try to be a beacon of light, be a source of support for people who are really in worse shape than I am. The way I serve God is through serving humanity,” he said. “I just want the next generation to be better.”
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