Cooking creole cuisine with his grandmother, the legendary chef Leah Chase, at their renowned family restaurant, Dooky Chase’s, was how Edgar “Dook” Chase IV, began making his footprint in New Orleans.
Chase has been involved in the growth and development of the community over the years, serving on the boards of several nonprofits and commissions in the city including the Audubon Nature Institute, Finance Authority of New Orleans, the Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Convention Center Authority and the Ujamaa Economic Development Corporation.
If he wasn’t already wearing many hats, Chase just picked up a new one.
He was recently appointed chairman of the New Orleans African American Museum board of directors. Chase said he feels honored. He has spent a lifetime working to preserve the culture and historical legacy of New Orleans in his many civic activities.
“I’m very humble and grateful that my fellow board members entrusted me with this position,” he said.
The museum is rooted in the epicenter of the Tremé community — the prominent neighborhood at the heart of a progressive, prosperous Black community and one of the nation’s largest areas of African American culture. It was one of the first places for free people of color to live and work in New Orleans. So it makes sense that the New Orleans African American Museum would be here.
A reservoir of history, the museum features curated exhibitions and houses archives. Along with highlighting artists and musicians, the museum invites national speakers to share their stories. Its mission is to sustain the rich history of New Orleans, uplift the culture and contributions of not only New Orleans’ residents, but those of the African diaspora.
“Edgar Chase IV is a passionate champion of New Orleans culture and a living example of Black contributions to its rich history,” said Marc Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, CEO of the National Urban League and a co-founder of the museum. “He is an excellent choice to lead the revival of the tremendous villa museum.”
The vision for NOAAM remains the same, says Chase. He wants to keep the programs already in place — focused on Black photography, spaces and collective memories. His goal is to “strategize on bringing back the full campus of the museum,” he said. There’s the main building and several buildings across the street that need to be rebuilt.
The buildings hold historical significance in the city. Chase plans to create programs for those facilities and bring the campus back to life.
For six years, between 2013 and 2019, NOAAM was closed. It was still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the high construction costs associated with rebuilding the campus. After it reopened in 2019, the museum had to close its doors again a year later because of the global shutdown due to the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak.
However, since the reopening in April 2019, they are back on track. The museum has hosted more than 100 events and exhibition viewings, drawing more than 8,000 visitors.
Gia M. Hamilton, executive director and chief curator at NOAMM, says that Chase “has been a leader who has elevated the new vision for the institution and been of service in large and small ways.”
Hamilton was close with Chase’s grandmother, whose world-renowned restaurant hosted luminaries and was an important social and cultural institution in the city. She knows the Chase family’s legacy in New Orleans and how Edgar learned about the city’s history and culture sitting at his grandmother’s feet.
“Having the opportunity to work with Edgar in this capacity — his skills as a businessman, his devotion to his family and his service of the New Orleans African American Museum mission is in sync with who we are and where we are going, taking tradition, honoring it and sharing it and pushing it and expanding it,” Hamilton said of the new chair.
Chase is passionate about sharing the stories of the once thriving African American community in the corridor of Treme and the surrounding areas in the Claiborne corridor. New Orleans is more than food and music, he said.
“I’m talking about just the culture and the fabric of the city,” Chase said.
Chase wants those who visit New Orleans African American Museum to feel a sense of confidence and pride learning about the history of the New Orleans community and its ancestors. Looking ahead, he wants the next generation to preserve the great culture and continue to push the community forward with passion.
Chase says donations are key to helping the museum thrive and bringing back the campus to its full potential. It’s important that the museum has strong community support.
“It not only represents the best of the community now but [NOAAM] continues the legacies for our children and their grandchildren of stories that if we are not here to tell it,” Chase said. “This museum will continue those stories.”
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