A group of nonprofits that bought a Fort Worth building built by the Ku Klux Klan plans to turn it into a cultural hub and arts center – and name it after a Black man who was lynched a century ago.
The building, once known as Klavern No. 101 Auditorium, will be named the Fred Rouse Center for Arts and Community Healing.
Rouse was a Black man who was lynched not far from the building.
The three-story brick structure is at 1012 North Main Street just north of downtown. While the red-brick exterior appears solid, the windows are broken and the roof is in disrepair. In later years it became a pecan factory and closed in 1999.
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City leaders debated tearing it down, but the nonprofit groups got together and came up with a plan to purchase it.
"I'm very excited about this. It's an overwhelming feeling,” said Sharon Herrera who heads a youth group known as LGBTQ Saves. "There's a song that comes to mind. It's 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow.' Dreams do come true and here we are."
The new owners aren't shying away from the building's past.
"By not talking about it, it doesn't go away,” said 21-year-old student Jacora Johnson who plans to start a youth outreach here. "By taking something like this that was a symbol of hate and transforming it, flipping it on its head, you really take the power back for yourselves."
Adam W. McKinney, a TCU assistant professor of dance, leads Tarrant County Coalition for Peace and Justice, another of the nonprofits.
"This moment heralds an opportunity to get it right as a community where we stand firm in our commitment to remembering our past," McKinney said.
The nonprofits still have to raise $35 million for construction and it's expected to take several years to fix up and open.
The eight nonprofits involved in purchasing the building are DNAWORKS, LGBTQ SAVES, Opal Lee Foundation, SOL Ballet Folklórico, Tarrant County Coalition for Peace and Justice, The Welman Project, Window to Your World, and the 1012 Youth Council.