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Meet Black History Month Local Hero Makeda Marianne Cheatom

Black History Month 2016 Honoree

Photo credit: KPBS

Photo of KPBS' 2016 Black History Month Local Hero honoree Makeda Marianne Cheatom.

Makeda Marianne Cheatom is many things, and she does many things. All of these are embodied in one place — the World Beat Center, which she founded 30 years ago and still runs today. She says the Center is a culmination of everything she does. It's one place where communities of all kinds come together. But she doesn't call them communities; Cheatom insists they're all one community, one people. Her center is where the people learn, dance, party, grieve, and most importantly — eat.

The Center features an international fusion of cuisines. Cheatom touts her restaurant, "The Prophet," as the first vegetarian eatery in east San Diego, which now operates through the Center. And while much of the food features traditionally Black and Mexican flavors, Cheatom isn't afraid to try any food from anywhere. "I can cook a wicked szechuan," she says.

The Center is in Balboa Park, known as "the heart of San Diego." Cheatom says it was a struggle to get set up there, but it's the place the Center is meant to be.

And how did she feel about getting the nomination?

"I was in one of the lowest times of my life," Cheatom said. "It really gave me the strength to continue on in a certain way — to be a public servant on this planet."

Cheatom said it's rare for cultural workers to receive such an honor. She says they're often never recognized, but these types of awards help solidify paths of service like the one she's chosen.

Black History Month Local Hero Makeda Marianne Cheatom

See past Black History Month honorees here.

Meet fellow 2016 honoree Marc Chery.

Nominate your hero by filling out this form.
Questions or comments on this story can be directed to Nate John at njohn@kpbs.org.

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