Harvey Gantt, speaking at the opening of the uptown arts and cultural center that bears his name, said the building was not a monument to him but should reflect the struggles and accomplishments of African Americans everywhere.
“I stood on my parents’ shoulders and all the elders in Charleston,” he told an audience Saturday inside the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. “I’ve stood on the shoulders of a whole lot of other people.
Earlier that morning, Gantt and center president David Taylor had presided over an official ribbon-cutting ceremony, an event that featured African-style drummers and dancers.
Speaking to an overflow crowd inside one of the center’s upstairs conference rooms, Gantt said the building far exceeded his wildest dreams.
“We accept this honor, but it is not about Harvey,” he said. “It is about us… This is a stage to tell the story to the world, to Charlotte, to the region, of the contributions of African Americans — their art, their culture, their music.”
Gantt, who served as Charlotte’s first African American mayor from 1983 to 1987, gave special recognition to his parents, Christopher and Wihelmenia Gantt, both in their mid 80s and living in Charleston, and his wife of 45 years, Cindy Gantt.
Gantt was joined at the ceremony by a host of African American pastors and elected officials.
Mecklenburg Commissioners chairwoman Jennifer Roberts, who praised Gantt for his continued work in the community, said she hoped the Gantt Center would “give vision of the struggle that has taken place, the struggle that’s not over.”
“That work never stops,” she said. “Let this center be a symbol of that work that never stops.”
Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, speaking to Gantt “mayor to mayor,” said Gantt represents “the best of Charlotte.”
“You’ve been a role model for young people and old people alike, black or white, rich or poor,” he said. “You’ve been a role model for me during my 14 years as mayor… I’m so pleased that your name is on this building.”
McCrory also admonished the crowd to remember the work and sacrifices that preceded the Gantt Center.
“Never take this wonderful city for granted,” he said, “and keep teaching in this building how we got to this point… It doesn’t happen by accident. You make greatness by being great.”