Progressive Emporium and Education Center, once named the Progressive Emporium and Information Center, is owned and operated by Sudan Illustrators, Inc. Sudan is a Black/Afrikan centered cultural, artistic and education organization/collective. Sudan is a united collective co-op operating with traditional Afrikan views, values and perspectives.
Sudan was founded in 1970 and was an artistic entity of the Mid-City Community Center, founded by the Mid-City Community Corporation, then located at what was their new building at 3974 Delmar (next to the old Slaughter’s Cleaners). They were once across the street from this location. Mid-City was a community service organization steeped in the Black Power Movement.
Sudan Players, the original name, was named after the theater established at the Mid-City Community Center. This theater, located in a renovated warehouse on Delmar, was named the Sudan Room. Sudan is in the Arabic language meaning “Black.” Thus the theater was called the “Black Room.” signifying the growing cultural and political consciousness of the Black Power and African Conscious movement of the 1970’s. In 1971 Sudan Players changed its name to Sudan Illustrators indicating that they were “Illustrators of Black Life and Culture” through all its endeavors.
Sudan Players performed numerous plays all by Black playwriters. This includes Imamu Baraka, Kalamu Ya Salaam and many other. In 1971 Sudan established the Sudan Afrikan Dance and Drum Ensemble who provide performances of traditional Afrikan and Afro-Caribbean music and dance.
Sudan Players, composed of members of the Black community including youth from the neighborhood, performed to overflow crowds in their community theater. They also performed throughout the St. Louis community including at the numerous Black Conscious Rallies held to uplift and mobilize the St. Louis Black community around various issues. After each play discussions would be held with the attendees around the thought provoking issues raised by these Black Playwrights who were a part of the growing and extremely politically conscious Black Arts Movement. The Black Arts Movement was considered the artistic arm of the Black Power and Afrikan Conscious Movement.
Reading materials, including pamphlets, position papers and books by Black authors were made available to attendees to further educate and inform the community around the issues raised by the plays and dance performances. What began with one table quickly grew to three with a small number of book sales. Over time, the materials made available grew to several tables and numerous requests to locate and buy copies of the materials.
In response to the demand, and in line with their purpose, Sudan Illustrators, Inc opened Progressive Emporium and Information Center at 2612 North Kingshighway in 1981. At that time Progressive was sub-leasing a large space from the Karma Nutrition Center located next door. Karma was a Black, female owned health and nutrition store and center. Progressive later moved to the University City Loop area at 6265 Delmar Avenue - operating there successfully for over 18 years. Progressive Emporium & Education Center re-opened, after being closed for several years, at a 'Live and Work' space at 1108 N Sarah in 2014 under a new name Progressive Emporium & Education Center.