The Collins brothers graduated with a degree in engineering from N.C. Agricultural & Technical State University, but instead of doing just that, they started their own nonprofit organization.
Victor, Chantin and Daniel Collins step outside the front door of The Carrack, a re-purposed warehouse in Durham, and from there they can see their grandmother’s house from when they were kids. This neighborhood is the foundation of their childhood — the perfect location for their next C.N.O.T.E. (Create Nothing Other Than Excellence) Foundation event.
Graduating from one of the most famous Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the U.S., the Collins brothers couldn’t leave behind the memories and education that they received at N.C. A&T. They banded together in 2010 to start the C.N.O.T.E. Foundation, a non-profit organization that raises money for scholarships and resources for incoming HBCU students across the state.
This Friday, they’re hosting an event, The Sit-In Series, that not only honors N.C. A&T and the four students who started the first Civil Rights sit-in, but also celebrates a growing community of African-American leaders. And what better way to do that than at The Carrack on the block that they themselves grew up on?
“The whole idea behind the power of the sit-in movement is the energy behind it,” Chantin said. “The power of this movement allows us to celebrate now, but also allows us to progress the movement at the same time. It’s a crucial event, but it’s also going to be a lot of fun.”
Inside The Carrack, the contrasting white and brick-stoned walls will be covered with almost 220 pieces of art by local Triangle artists, all available to buy. Daniel, the youngest brother, will also be serving and sharing a concoction of his own — a line of his own brewed beer — for free.
“We’re putting on something that we would want to attend ourselves, so that’s really the biggest part,” Daniel said. “We’re putting on something that’s satisfying to our expectations.”
Recruiting rap, hip-hop and R&B music artists from HBCUs, the brothers not only generate a fun time for every one of their events, but they also try to emphasize the potential and personal growth of these HBCU artists.
Friday evening the event will host three artists from across the state: a rapping professor from Appalachian State University, a student rapper from Winston-Salem State University and a Durham rapper who also attended N.C. A&T.
Christopher Shreve, otherwise known by his stage name C. Shreve the Professor, has been performing for the Collins brothers’ events since their very first one in Winston-Salem. He’s excited to bring a little bit of noise and energy to this Friday’s quiet venue.
“If you’re in certain audiences who aren’t used to rap or aren’t used to catching things on the fly, they miss half of it, so I really like when people are informed of hip-hop," Shreve said. "It’s a perfect audience for me, one that appreciates craft, appreciates message and kind of demands message.”
The Collins brothers hope the community will feel good about donating their money to this entertaining but influential cause. The brothers plan to use the money to create sustainable scholarship solutions for under-represented youths, but also strengthen HBCU endowments from alumni, local communities and current staff and students.
“It’s a struggle to get HBCU alumni to give money back to HBCUs. So that’s what we’re trying to promote — just give a little,” Chantin said. “Come have fun. This is what it supports. It supports these kinds of artists. It supports this kind of thinking — these kinds of movements.”
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