Kalonji Gilchrist has big dreams for Montgomery

Kalonji Gilchrist sees good energy and momentum for Montgomery in 2022, and he hopes to use his roles to have a hand in that vision. 

“I love what the (city’s) administration is doing in terms of cultural affairs,” said Gilchrist, founder and executive director of 21 Dreams Arts & Culture Collective, a nonprofit that advances creative and cultural arts. “That’s really added some diversity in the way things are being presented.”

One project for 21 Dreams is in the area historically known as Peacock Tract — Washington Park, Uptown Community, Three Points — around where I-65 and I-85 connect. A large part of Gilchrist’s childhood was spent there.

“My grandmother grew up in that community, so all my summers and downtime were spent in that area,” he said.

Kalonji Gilchrist is shown in Montgomery at the site of a community building project with the Tuskegee University Agriculture Cooperative Extension on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021.

Peacock Tract sits along the final mile-and-a-half of the Selma-to-Montgomery Historic March Trail. The area suffered when the interstate system was built through it, dividing the community’s access. 

“There’s a lot of history in that community, and how it was almost intentionally left for dead,” Gilchrist said.  

More:The legacy of Montgomery’s interstates and the neighborhoods they destroyed

Revitalization is coming through a community building project with the Tuskegee University Agriculture Cooperative Extension. Arts and agriculture will be used as a catalyst for community engagement. A sign at the fenced-in lot at 595 Grady Street marks the project’s Urban Agricultural Innovation Center.

Kalonji Gilchrist is shown in Montgomery at the site of a community building project with the Tuskegee University Agriculture Cooperative Extension on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021.

Along with Tuskegee, Gilchrist said 21 Dreams is partnering with Alabama State University and others. 

“We have some other projects with public art that we want to do,” Gilchrist said. “We’ve started grants for that.”

With the community theater group Cloverdale Playhouse, 21 Dreams launched its Rhythm and Rhyme program. “That’s a performance arts event with poetry and jazz,” Gilchrist said.

Angelia S. Rico

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