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Black History profile: Ash Love is community activist, artist

By Spencer Dixon
news@salisburypost.com

EDITOR’S NOTE: In honor of Black History Month, the Salisbury Post is featuring notable African-American members of our community. Each person was asked the same questions, but the story itself will concentrate on the contribution and uniqueness of each individual.

SALISBURY — Ash Love’s passion is to help those around her every day. “Everyone I work with has something inside of them to inspire me,” said Love.

Love’s official occupation is chief operating officer at the Winston-Salem Urban League. However, she is involved with numerous organizations and movements within Salisbury and surrounding areas.

After finishing her graduate degree, Love wanted a change in atmosphere. A friend recommended a move to Charlotte. In Charlotte, she met her partner, who was born and raised in Salisbury, so the two moved to Salisbury in 2011 where Love became involved with the community immediately.

Love’s aim is to help make “a real impact on real people’s lives.” For instance, Love is the adult mentor for Next Generation Productions at the Mission House and a member of Rowan Concerned Citizens. She is one of seven commissioners on the Truth, Hope, Healing & Equity commission.

She organizes youth and adult art classes in Salisbury, and is a proponent of mobilizing voters within the community. She was one of Mayor Al Heggins’ campaign managers during the recent city council election, as well.

Originally born in Philadelphia, Love attended Slippery Rock University to major in education with an emphasis on art. Following her undergraduate program, she attended the University of Pittsburgh to pursue a graduate degree in macrosocial work with an emphasis on community organization and civic action.

Love’s favorite book is “All About Love” by Bell Hooks. “I am fascinated by the interpretation of love, not just individual love, but the love of community and the love of people,” she said. She was introduced to the book during her undergraduate program. “I constantly revisit the book to center myself and remind myself of the value of love.”

She draws motivation from the people around her. Love explains, “When it gets challenging, I just stop to find the inspiration that is already around me.” She admits being an activist for vulnerable populations can be overwhelming, but she has learned how to overcome that feeling.

“Community activism isn’t a one man show, so everyone around me inspires with their talent,” said Love.

Love doesn’t know what her legacy will be, but she knows how she wants to be remembered. “Some people want statues or something big, but that isn’t me; I’d rather people just remember that I loved,” she said. Reputation and recognition do not motivate Love; rather, she works hard every day to help change the course of people’s lives. “As long as what I did, big or small, changes the trajectory of someone’s life, I’ll be happy,” she said.

She believes strength is at the heart of her culture. “Black culture has faced many hardships, but those led to strength. … Sometimes as a black person you have to stand in the mirror and remind yourself that you matter.”

In addition to strength, Love said, “Black culture is a mother that birthed so many different and beautiful things.” With her background in art, Love admits she could never ignore the massive influence art has had within her own life and others.

During her time in Philadelphia, Love remembers seeing murals everywhere, and realizing the effect art can have not only on an individual but society as well. “For me, black culture will always lead back to art, music and all the transformative creative products that black culture birthed.”

If Love could pick any historical figure to eat dinner with, she would pick two. First, she would love to have dinner with her grandfather, Eddie Lewis Jones. Love never met her grandfather because he was murdered in New York in 1975, but everyone speaks highly of him as a person and activist. In 1963, Eddie Lewis Jones was a bus captain, which means he led a bus of protesters from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. to join Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic March on Washington.

Love said she draws inspiration from her grandfather’s memory whenever she is preparing for a protest. She said, “I would love to sit with him to ask about the march, but I’d want to just ask him questions to get to know him as a person, as well.”

Love’s other choice would be Bayard Rustin, an organizer of the march on Washington and a close associate of Martin Luther King Jr. Love’s fascination with Rustin began a long time ago, not only because he is an influential activist, but a gay man, as well. “It’s important for black queer people to know the history of the people that came before us,” said Love.

Love’s information on Rustin is limited to what is inside an old FBI file, so she would want to sit and ask him about his challenges not only as a black man but as a gay man as well.

Ash Love emphasized that her wish moving forward is “to make black males, black women, black queers, and all black people to know we are special and we are strong.”

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