Arts & Culture

Women of color don’t own many businesses in Hancock County. This group wants to change that.

The spirit of Bay St. Louis contributes to the 100 Men Hall’s rebirth

Owner Rachel Dangermond said she didn't know anybody in Bay St. Louis when she bought the historic 100 Men Hall in Bay St. Louis, but the people of Bay St. Louis have helped her because they know they live in a special place.
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Owner Rachel Dangermond said she didn't know anybody in Bay St. Louis when she bought the historic 100 Men Hall in Bay St. Louis, but the people of Bay St. Louis have helped her because they know they live in a special place.

There aren’t a lot of businesses owned by women of color in Hancock County, said Rachel Dangermond, the director of 100 Men Hall D.B.A.

She wants to change that.

Dangermond is leading 100 Women D.B.A., an organization formed earlier this year that supports the hall’s preservation and aims to provide services to women of color looking to start their own business.

She purchased the hall about a year ago. The building was erected in 1922 after a group of 12 black men wrote bylaws decades earlier for the Hundred Members Debating Benevolent Association. The group aimed to “assist its members when sick, bury its dead in a respectable manner and knit friendship,” according to the hall’s website.

In the Civil Rights era, the hall transformed into a music venue and safe space for the black community in Bay St. Louis and for traveling jazz and blues artists from New Orleans. Members of the community asked Dangermond after she purchased the hall if she was going to re-institute the 100 men membership format.

But she wanted to do something different.

“I thought about it a great deal,” she said. “But for some reason, I wasn’t feeling it.”

The 100 Women idea came to Dangermond one night as she thought of the movers and shakers of Bay St. Louis. They were mostly female — but they weren’t women of color, she said.

“I was always struck by how many women were in a position of power,” she said. “But I was also struck by the fact that they were all white women.”

100 Women started in January 2019 and currently has 29 members. Each member pays dues — either $30 monthly or $360 annually — to support the maintenance and preservation of the hall. Dangermond hopes the group will have 100 members by the end of the year. Their dues would completely cover all those costs. Women across the Coast are invited to join the group.

Well-connected members of 100 Women will provide a mentorship and support network to women of color who live in Hancock County. Those interested in receiving the organization’s help can apply online here.

“I want our mission to be that we uplift a woman of color in business,” Dangermond said. “We’re a group of women … and we all have different skills — writers, accountants, lawyers, judges, artists, business owners, and so, these women all have something to offer a woman who wants to open a business or wants to grow her business. ...Anyone who is looking for resources, we are here.”

Tasks could be as small as helping with a resume or a big as producing a business plan or trying to find grant funds. The help, Dangermond said, is primarily knowledge-based.

“I think of it this way … there is this thing called generational wealth and this thing called generational poverty. And generational wealth doesn’t necessarily mean that money has been handed down as much as resources,” she said. “What we want to do is take people who were born into generational poverty and give them other access. Bridge the gap.”

The group is also looking to support creative pursuits for a younger generation in Hancock County.

100 Women is co-hosting Freedom Art Camp at the hall for children around the ages of 8 to 12. The exact dates haven’t been set but it will be put on in the fall. It will be free and is open to children who wouldn’t normally have the means to go to a camp.

The group hopes to identify one or two girls of color who could benefit from more exposure to the arts — which could include lessons with artists or trips to museums.

“I want to help in any way I can to help mentor someone because I wish I would have had that kind of help when I was young,” said Marian Glaser, a Coast artist and member of 100 Women.

Glaser will serve as the director of the art camp.

“It’s almost selfish because it’s going to make me feel good to see someone else succeed,” she said.

If you’d like to be a member of 100 Women, you can make a payment through PayPal. For more information about 100 Women, visit their website. If you’re a member, you get free entry into any hall event.

Are you a woman of color, or do you operate a black-owned business in Hancock County? Share your story with us. Email Nick Wooten at nwooten@mcclatchy.com.

Catastrophe and Company, a troupe of drag queens on the Coast, are booking gigs at straight bars and other venues that aren't LGBTQ exclusive.

Nick Wooten is the Southern Trends and Culture reporter for McClatchy’s South region. He is based in Columbus, Georgia at the Ledger-Enquirer but his work also appears in The (Macon) Telegraph and The Sun Herald in Biloxi.Before joining McClatchy, he worked for The (Shreveport La.) Times covering city government and investigations. He is a graduate of Mercer University in Macon, Georgia.
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