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Elsie McCabe stood by her man, William C. Thompson Jr. during his 2009 run against Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in New York City’s mayoral elections. In other words, when she believes in something, she’s loyal to the cause. This is a philosophy she applies to her work as the President for the Museum of African Art. When she started there, there wasn’t a permanent space for the museum.

They often shifted her office to whatever space they could find, which didn’t fly for McCabe. However, after nearly a decade of fundraising and campaigning to give the museum a permanent and respectable home, McCabe has secured the museum on New York’s prestigious Fifth Avenue, not far from The Metropolitan Museum and The Guggenheim.

“Most African Americans, if you ask them to describe Africa, they’ll tell you stories populated by images of semi naked savages ‘eeking’ out some ahistorical existence in a jungle,” said McCabe. “It’s impossible for African Americans to feel pride in being African American if their notion of what is African is an embarrassment.”

The former lawyer has been on a quest to enrich the lives of all through a deeper engagement with African culture and art based on her own experiences with learning about African art. McCabe says that learning about African art taught her things about herself as a black woman that she never knew. And now it’s her turn to spread the knowledge, which is truly a form of power.

“I never set out to be a social change maker, I set out to do what I thought was right.”

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