Our values are to honor our history and legacy, be committed to the Black community, stewardship of all funds entrusted to us, transparency in the way we communicate our actions, and accountability to honor our commitments.
Initially branded as “The Young Men’s Institute”, the more commonly known YMI Cultural Center is one of the oldest, most unique and beautiful Black cultural centers in the United States. The YMI is a local landmark within the City of Asheville, North Carolina and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The YMI was built after two Black leaders (Mr. Isaac Dickson and Dr. Edward S. Stephens) originally approached George Vanderbilt in 1892 to commission the building for the Black men who helped build the Biltmore Estate. While living in Asheville, Dr. Stephens was frustrated with racial discrimination he witnessed and the perception from white Asheville residents that black people were not capable of being self-reliant or assuming the responsibilities of citizenship. George Vanderbilt and his estate superintendent Charles McNamee agreed to fund the YMI and provide an opportunity for black leaders to "demonstrate their ability to learn the art of self-government." In providing funding to the YMI, Vanderbilt's goal was to test whether the YMI could achieve financial solvency, and thereby show that the black community could self-govern. Economic self sufficiency was challenging to the black community in Asheville, however, in these post-civil war years, as they faced discrimination and wage disparity in the service sector jobs available
Construction was completed in 1893 In June of 1906, the YMI's Board of Directors purchased the building from the Vanderbilt Estate for $10,000. The YMI continued to flourish during the period of segregation. In 1980, a coalition of nine black churches purchased the building and reestablished it as the YMI Cultural Center
Today, the mission of the YMI Cultural Center is dedicated to elevating Black communities through cultural, economic, and leadership opportunities and programs.