The House That BAIA Built

Black Art in America Moves into its Historic Next Chapter

By D. Amari Jackson

Morning light, silken dream take flight
As the darkness gives way to the dawn
You’ve survived, now your moment has arrived
Now your dream has finally been born—Black Butterfly, Barry Mann / Cynthia Weil                                                                                                                             

A few times in life, if so blessed, you are present at those rare and special moments when history is being made. Unlike comparable occasions where you didn’t realize an event was historic until viewing in retrospect, you are fully aware of these moments, their rich significance, their sobering magnitude, and your own presence within. Such moments are as memorable as they are electric, as exhilarating as they are compelling, ultimately serving as a marker in time, segregating all that occurred prior from all that follows. They bear a strong sense of novelty and optimism while reflecting a tangible progress, a temporal acknowledgment that, despite a global setback, our human experience marches onward, that our living experience will never be the same.

On a beautiful ATL morning in early November, I gathered with at least a dozen others near the intersection of Semmes Street and Connally Drive, a short jog from downtown East Point, to witness a historic signing between Black Art In America (BAIA) and the Black contractor, Star Construction. The event marked the commencement of the much-anticipated establishment of BAIA’s new headquarters on a near-acre of land, a veritable island for art triangulated by three adjacent streets. At its nucleus sits a two-floor, 4000 square-foot structure, most recently used as a church, surrounded by its own sizable, fenced-in parking lot. Within the coming months, the building will be renovated into a multi-use complex for art and related programming with sizable office, gallery, and programming spaces fronted by an art garden.

Among the excited attendees were BAIA CEO and founder, Najee Dorsey; BAIA co-owner, Seteria Dorsey; longtime collector and patron of the arts, Don Roman; architectural project manager, Sam Battle; and a handful of Atlanta area artists and supporters.

Left to right: Sam Battle (project manager architectural team), Chris Tzegaegbe (contractor), Lucky (project manager for Star Construction), Najee Dorsey, and Yahya Hassan (architectural team)

The ancestors were in attendance as well—one in particular, given Dorsey’s wall posting of the image of late friend and longtime art consultant and dealer, Eugene Foney. An early supporter of BAIA, Dorsey acknowledged Foney as a one-of-a-kind, cultural steward whose vision of the company was largely consistent with its current expansion and direction. Like Dorsey, the late art industry veteran knew that Black folk needed and would benefit from a vehicle like BAIA, one devoted to the documentation, preservation, and promotion of the contributions of the African-American arts community.

Poignantly, Foney’s photo was the sole image in a place soon to be basking in imagery. Alone on a large, stark wall, his profile was a stirring reminder of how spirit trumps death, how life perpetually takes new form, and how we, as a community, ultimately challenge prevailing Western constructs of dying with our defiant tradition to leave no ancestor behind because, nah, we’re bringing ‘em with us.

Black butterfly, sail across the waters
Tell your sons and daughters
What the struggle brings
Black Butterfly, set the skies on fire
Rise up even higher
So the ageless winds of time can catch your wings

“Eugene Foney” | #myartfamilyseries by Najee Dorsey

Recognizing the weight of the moment, someone asked that we open with a prayer as we stood in an impromptu circle, that timeless geometry of our communal connection, that representative form sustaining us through our tribulation, ever stretching to remain unbroken. Heeding the call, and with Foney’s piercing eyes watching over, Roman encouraged us to recognize the gravity of the moment, to bless our mission and our presence along with all who would enter the space from that moment forward.

After revealing the scope of the three-month project, Battle took the group on a tour of the complex, at each step describing its imminent transformation. Inside, walls will disappear as ceilings will be raised; outside, curb appeal will soar as art-filled gardens spring to life. Facing the group in the parking lot, Dorsey acknowledged the ongoing local initiative by the city of East Point to increase public art and, consistently, how timely the early 2022 opening of the complex will be.  

While welcoming and wholly inclusive, BAIA the Headquarters will be Black in more ways than one given its ownership, the hue of its current contractors, the primary community it serves, and the literal color of its soon-to-be-painted facade. For the past 12 years, the popular company has represented and championed the works of African-American artists while providing provocative writing, profiles, commentary, art news, and programming for a national audience. In doing so, BAIA has brought our artistic community together in a creative and culturally affirming space where rich images set the skies on fire, and where silken dreams take flight. And now that same space will have a centralized physical component, one specifically designed to reflect and preserve our ageless culture while further facilitating our collective self-realization through art.

Let the current lift your heart and send it soaring
Write your timeless message clear across the sky
So that all of us can read it and remember when we need it
That a dream conceived in truth can never die

 After the tour, the buzzing group socialized for a time before going their own ways and leaving me with the two individuals most responsible for turning the BAIA vision into a stunning, material reality, Najee and Seteria Dorsey. Upon shutting off the lights and closing the place down, an inspired Najee told us to wait a minute before running to their van and retrieving a power drill and a six-foot, aluminum Garden Art profile of legendary bluesman, Robert Johnson that he’d crafted. A minute later, the three of us stood in quiet awe as the sun shone down on the iconic guitar-toting Johnson standing guard on the corner post of a raised deck fronting the complex. His undeniable swag and cool demeanor seemingly marked the spot, letting all who pass know that something is happening here, something artistic, something magical, something big.

BAIA founders, Najee and Seteria Dorsey, holding the life-size Garden Art of Robert Johnson

Wanting to give the couple their moment, I got in the car and left Najee and Seteria behind with Johnson to contemplate all they have envisioned and accomplished, to reflect upon all they have built. Once a mere dream in Najee’s brilliant, artistic mind, Black Art In America, for years, has been the top resource and platform in the nation for African-American art. And while extraordinarily successful as a business, BAIA has never been just about the Dorseys, but about us—our community, our culture, our expression, our collective image of self.

For, again, they knew from the jump, like Foney, that Black folk needed and would benefit from a vehicle like BAIA, that we of African descent in a country that continues to devalue our humanity needed to ever be reminded of our extraordinary beauty and our unprecedented resilience.

‘Cause now you’re free and the world has come to see
Just how proud and beautiful you are

And now, after our long and challenging sojourn, we have survived, our moment has arrived, and our dream has finally been born.  

BAIA House 2022

Browse and shop for fine art from our growing network of artists, collectors, estates, galleries — specializing in works by Black American artists with great values on premier art.


Sign up for our free email course on how to begin your collection.

AMARI JACKSONis a creator, author, TV/web/film producer, and award-winning journalist. He is author of the 2011 novel, The Savion Sequence; creator/writer/coproducer of the 2012-2014 web series The Book Look; writer/coproducer of the 2016 film Edge of the Pier; and current writer/coproducer of Listen Up! on HBCU GO/Roku TV. He is a former Chief of Staff for a NJ State Senator; a former VP of Communications & Development for the Jamestown Project at Harvard University; and a recipient of several writing fellowships including the George Washington Williams Fellowship from the Independent Press Association. An active ghost writer, song writer, martial artist, and journalist, his writings have appeared in a wide variety of national and regional publications.

Review our list of rewards for becoming a BAIA Patreon / patron supporter. Your monthly contribution has lasting benefits. — “What will your legacy be” – Dr. Margaret Burroughs

Thank you new and recurring monthly Patrons

Deloris and Eddie YoungEsther Silver-ParkerEugene FoneyZadig & Voltaire, Petrucci Family Foundation Collection of African American Art, John and Melanie Guess, Frank Frazier, Houston Museum of African American Culture, Leslie Fields, Jim Nixon, Dr. Michael Butler, Mary “Madea” Jones, Patrick Stewart, Noreen Winningham, Reg Pugh, Kevin Smokler, Deborah R. Moore, Dr. Skyller Walkes, Jae M, Jocelyne Lamour, Marion Zweig, Shannon DeVaney, Ashlee Jacob, DaNia Childress, Rev. Anita Marshall, Mary Ali-Masai, Devera Redmond, Roslyn Valentine, Robin King, Brenda Larnell, Michael, Jeffery Washington, Tricia Konan, Debra L Lacy CHARLES BIBBS, Fredric Isler, Silvia Peters,  Harold Moore, Shurvon Haynes K.Coleman Shannon Dale Davis Terese L Hawkins M. Rasheed Jamal Love Annette, Mason Archie, Manuelita Brown, Carolyn L. Mazloomi  Gale Ross KL Martin michael jacobs Virginia Joy Simmons Christ Van Loan Sr. Cecilia Winters-Morris, Rosie Gordon-Wallace, Pearlie Taylor, Danny Jenkins, Sara, Lloyd Goode, Marina Kovic, Sarah Rooney, Mitchell Shohet, Nicole Farley, Cheryl B Blankman, Jocelyn Greene, Laura Di Piazza Petrina Burkard Hannah Diener Sarah Drury Claire Sig Mina Silva Whitney, Sara Friesen, Megan LaCroix, Kellyn Maguire, Sophia Bellin,o Cory Huff, Wilhelmina Barker, Linda Eaddy, Shelley Danzy, Rosalyn D. Elder, Sonia Spencer Karen Pinzolo Desiree Dansan, Deborah Paige-Jackson, ALKEBU LAN IMAGES Bookstore DeLores M Dyer, Shelia, Harry F Banks, Susan Ross, Dr. Diane R. Miles, Carlton Cotton, Andre Mitchell, Joan L. Ward, JOCELYN BENITA SMITH, Paul Robinson, Janice Orr, Patricia D Dungy, Ethnie Weekes, Shawn Rhea, Duke Windsor, Runez M Bender, Karen Y House, M Belinda Tucker, Dr. Yonette Thomas, Diana Shannon Young, Judith Hamilton, Julia Turner Lowe, Francene Greene, Caryliss R. Weaver, Sharmon Jane Hilfinger, Bill and Deborah Nix, joyce a, Wanda Baker-Smith, Timothy Gandley, Anneke Schwob, Emily M, Rachael horner, Morris Howard, Marie L Johnson, Ayoka Chenzira, Jean Gumpper, Caitlin Charles, Becca H,. Dr. Darlene White, Dr. Sandra Boyce Broomes, Michele C. Mayes, Rita Crittenden, Reginald Laurent, Jea Delsarte, Brenda Brooks, Suzette Renwick, BEVERLY GRANT, Linda B. Smith, Judith Bergeron, Emily Hegeman Cavanagh, Teri L Lewis, Cooky Goldblatt, Danni Cerezo, Hollis Turner, cdixon06, Freda Davis, Sarah Caputo, jacki rust, Curtis Morrow, Christina Levine, Jessica Beckstrom, Kim Walker, Pamela Hart, Ted Ellis, Louise berner-holmberg, Carla Sonheim, Nicole Bruce, Alison Deas, Monikapi, Ashley Littlefield, Reginald Browne Bill Cook, SylviaWong Lewis, DONNA PAXTON, Kanika Marshall, Cheyenne, Nancy Maignan, Kimberly Smith, Tracy Russ, Gwen Meharg, K Joy Peters, johnnie mae maberry, Lester Marks, Zishan Evans, Anne king, Dianna A. Harris, Arbrie Griffin Bradley, Sandra Sautner, Barbara Brown, Bronwen Hodgkinson, Sonia Deane, January Hoskin, Quinton Foreman, Key Mosley, Jim Alexander, Terri Pease, Annette Groschke, Richard MacMillan, D T Ray, Camille, Elayne Gross, Ann Tankersley, Samori Augusto, Karen M Hirsch, Jeanne H Chaney, Jacqueline Konan, Jerome Moore, Patricia Andrews-Keenan, India Still, Luna Cascade, Amy Peck, Marnese Barksdale, Elder Bridgette, René McCullough, Kevin and Tracy Burton, Raven Burnes, Kim Dubois, Edwina King Diva E, Charlotte Bender, Phyllis Stephens, Alisa R Elliot, Ebony English, Otto Neals, Michael Nix, Terri Bowles, Nelly Maynard, Leslie Smith, Bernard W. Kinsey, Toby Sisson, Raynard Hall, Milton Loupe, Wren Mckinley, Arturo Lindsay, Lindiwe Stovall Lester, Phil, Ricki Carroll,   Sherman E Jackson Jr, Janine P Rouson, Raynard Hall, Vickie Townsend-Carter, Peter Prinz, PB Fine Art Appraisal, Alison Woods, Suzette Davis, Carlton Cotton, Art Now After Hours, Diane E Leifheit, Tamara clements,  lisa tomlinson, vince leal, Deborah BarnwellGarr, Sonia Pollard, Barbara Hayes, Loretta Y Blakely, Gregg Y, Paige Jernigan, Randy McAnulty, raven walthor, Will Johnson, jack, Shameika Ingram, Trina Virginia Brooks, Black Wall Street Gallery, Suzanne Roberts, Faye Edwards, Tara, Crystal Green, Sedonia Phillips Kniskern,  R Simpson, Kate Gadd, Judy Nyquist, Velma McLaurin-Bell, Frazier and Myra O’Leary, Rosemarie Rogers, Elaine Buchsbaum, Hope Elliott, Renee Williams Jefferson, Atiya Slaughter, Stephanie Stephens, Takisia Whites, Robert Taylor, Christina, Taylor Jackson, and Brenda Joyner.


We Appreciate Your Support