City Lifestyle



History, Diversity and Community: The YMI's Longstanding Place in Asheville

Maintaining Cultural Relevance in a Growing City

When Anthony Thomas moved to Asheville in 1992, he couldn't have known just how much of his time he would be giving to the community. Thomas, the president and board chairman of the YMICC (Young Men’s Institute; now considered a Cultural Center), a realtor at Mosaic Realty and the general manager of Upstaff Personnel, has dedicated his life to serving the underprivileged. 

The YMICC has been offering support and stability to the black community since 1895, making it one of the oldest African-American institutes in the country. Thomas' mission as president and board chairman is to bring the focus back on the black community while building connections with the rest of Asheville. When it was first built, it was the hub for the black community; it housed events for churches, schools and civic organizations. Now, it’s a cultural center focused on preserving black heritage in Asheville through art exhibits and events open to the public. Despite being in a heavily gentrified area, the YMICC is adamant about staying anchored in its historic building on “The Block,” and with support from the community, it will be easy to meet that reality.

Looking to the Asheville community is Thomas’ plan for reinstituting the YMICC as a local stronghold for the African-American population in WNC. Not only is he using his platform as president through this historic organization, but he’s also a realtor focused on helping first-time buyers find affordable housing in a market that isn’t sustainable for many living in the area. As the general manager for a staffing company, he helps those struggling to find work land a stable job and income.

“My purpose has been to serve,” Thomas says. 

And after 27 years of making Asheville a better place, Thomas has no plans to pump the brakes anytime soon.

“Maybe one day I’ll rest, but for now, I have a responsibility to this community.”

How to Help:

The YMICC is working to maintain its place in a community that is rapidly growing around it. There are many ways the public can help the YMICC meet its goals and keep this Asheville gem shining brightly.

Buy Art

The YMICC houses local art that’s for sale. It’s a great way to give funds to the organization as well as a local artist. Check out Cleaster Cotton, a bright dynamic and visionary artist.

Attend Events

From music and art to food and camps, the YMICC offers events throughout the year, giving the public a fun and easy way to support the mission. 

Become a Sponsor

There are currently four sponsorship levels and the option to donate a custom amount. Every dollar counts toward restoring the YMICC to its former glory and helping the community it serves. 

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