SOUTH LOS ANGELES — Driving down the freeway one day en route to the high desert with her husband, Pamela Ashe-Thomas received a text message from a friend.
The friend asked Ashe-Thomas if she would be attending a gallery opening and reception that night. Frustrated that she hadn’t heard about the event sooner and had to miss it, Ashe-Thomas thought to herself: “Why are these events all word-of-mouth? Why isn’t there a place where I can find out about these things?”
“That was the day I decided something needed to be done about it,” Ashe-Thomas said, and the idea for her brainchild Black Cultural Events was conceived.
Black Cultural Events, an online, African-American cultural events calendar for the city of Los Angeles, came into existence with the help of her brother David, a digital media specialist.
“I wanted to see what’s going on the city for black folks, and I wanted him to put it all in one place for me,” Ashe-Thomas said.
A psychology professor at the Cal State Long Beach, Ashe-Thomas is part of an on-campus group for black women students. Once or twice a semester, she likes to plan an outing with them, but said she often found it difficult to find a cultural event to take them to.
Since it began in February 2016, Black Cultural Events has grown to 7,500 subscribers, and the number is steadily rising, Ashe-Thomas said.
“We send out a newsletter once a week, every Thursday, where we highlight five or six events that are happening that week, plus a few upcoming ones,” she said. They also include a featured restaurant in the weekly newsletter.
But beyond simplifying people’s search for black cultural events in Los Angeles on the web, Black Cultural Events also is helping other entities.
“The smaller nonprofits that are putting on events and programs now have a place to put up their events,” she said. “Organizations need to develop their programs, and we give them an opportunity and a platform to help build their audience. We provide a service to those who are trying to promote their events online, for free, with 24/7 access.”
Nonprofits and other organizations can submit and upload their events themselves, which are then added to the website’s event calendar.
The number of nonprofits and organizations that currently use Black Cultural Events to promote their events is easily between 50 to 100, Ashe-Thomas said, and they hope to see it increase.
Apart from wanting to see their subscribers grow, Ashe-Thomas said that she hopes the future of Black Cultural Events helps build and strengthen the community.
“We’d like to put together a black college network for black cultural events,” she said. “We want to take groups of students from all over the area and expose them to cultural events, to have students from universities come together.”
For now, Black Cultural Events is fulfilling a need that Ashe-Thomas saw was lacking.
“Black America needs its own comprehensive cultural events website, one for black families, black art lovers, black concert-goers, and black theater-goers, just for black culture lovers overall,” reads its website. “We’re starting here, at home, with the wonderful cultural richness of black Los Angeles.”
Founder: Pamela Ashe-Thomas
Years in operation: 1 ½
Location: Online, Los Angeles
Number of employees: 7
Annual budget: Self-funded, N/A