Although not the most obvious location, the Town of Newburgh is the site of a local gem that holds pertinence to the history of the African Diaspora.
The African Cultural Center of the Greater Hudson Valley houses a unique selection of artifacts from West Africa.
Owned by Terrence Verette, the African Cultural Center is also a reception hall.
Verette is an African priest. When he was initiated into the Ifa Orisa Worship, he officially became Baba Orisagbemiada-dirre.
Verette is also a retired NYPD Lieutenant. A man of many trades, Verette is not your average man.After retiring from the NYPD in 2010, Verette chose to open the African Cultural Center in the town he calls home.
Owning a reception hall has always been one of Verette’s dreams. Verette managed to incorporate his studying of African cultural studies into this dream. Verette had received a masters degree from Marist College. While studying Verette had a Babalawo, a spiritual advisor that helped him through his studies on the Ifa Orisa Worship.
Eventually he settled on naming the reception hall the African Cultural Center.
“People are always looking for space to rent,” said Verette. “So we [Verette and his wife] was like that would be a great idea.”
Although Verette owns and runs the center without any other employees, his wife and daughter occasionally come and help him.
On August 3, 2019, Verette held an official grand opening for the African Cultural Center. The event paid reverence to the diverse ancestral heritage of the African Diaspora. The event featured individuals in egungun masks, a ceremony that celebrates ancestral heritage. The event also featured local vendors, and Nigerian drummers.
Verette said that due to the novel coronavirus [COVID-19] pandemic, the center couldn’t hold a similar celebration this year. He said he hopes to hold a similar celebration every year.
“In light of everything that’s going on, there’s a part that’s profit and there’s a part that’s non-profit,” said Verette. “With the nonprofit we can do community centers; we can do those sorts of things, whatever ideas that come about.”
Although like other businesses the African Cultural Center has had to adapt to the hardships of the current pandemic, the center is still striving to move forward. The center remains open to business, and recently held a small socially distanced graduation ceremony for four graduates. Unlike some, the center has the space to adapt to socially distanced celebrations.
The center holds a reception hall, a studio with additional seating, and a spacious backyard that Verette hopes to expand into in the future.
All of the artifacts in the building were personally acquired and invested into by Verette. The entire design of the building was of Verette’s own hand.
When asked, an enthusiastic Verette personally will lead you on a tour of the center with a detailed description of all the artifacts and the layout of his business.
His current selection of artifacts took Verette around two years to acquire. Verette hopes to create a small exhibit of artifacts.
Although with the current pandemic the African Cultural Center doesn’t have as many visitors, Verette hopes to continue community outreach programming like the community chess program for the children that he ran prior to the pandemic.
The African Cultural Center is located at 108 Old South Plank Road, Town of Newburgh. Call 845-565-4957 for more information.