Founded by Dr. Enkeshi El-Amin, a local sociologist studying race, place, and Black Communities, The Bottom was named after the Black neighborhood in East Knoxville that was demolished in the 1950s by urban renewal and institutionalized racism. Rooted in community interviews and archival research, her work uncovered a resounding feeling of displacement and loss of space amongst Knoxville’s black elders and youth. Dr. El-Amin wanted to do more than just conduct a study, she wanted to make an impact, and thus the idea of The Bottom had begun to form.
Dr. El-Amin’s efforts joined those of other black women in Knoxville who also sought to do meaningful work. Today, The Bottom stands as a collective working to reclaim and reimagine black space in Knoxville. What initially started with a youth sewing and entrepreneurial program in 2019, has grown into a hub of black culture and togetherness. With the support of our community, our center has grown to include, a tea room, podcast studio, expanded sewing studio, and black empowerment bookstore. With the belief that Blackness is neither essentialist nor static, but relational, dynamic and changeable, The Bottom stands as a multi-use place to foster change and provide comfort. The Bottom is the place to get plugged into the local black community, whether you're local or new to town.
As a nonprofit community center and Black-affirming bookshop, The Bottom stands to build community, celebrate culture, and engage the creativity of Black people in Knoxville.
AKA " Mind Power Extraordinaire"
AKA "Tha Rennaissance Woman"
Enkeshi El-Amin is a researcher, and culture worker in Morgantown, West Virginia. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Sociology at West Virginia University. Her research, exploring the link between race and place, is focused on how racial practices shape Black places and how Black people in turn are involved in practices that define, contest, and reimagine places. As a PhD student, she completed an NSF-funded dissertation examining and analyzing the contested experiences and meanings of urban Black space in a region conventionally represented as a domain of rural white poverty. She is expanding this dissertation in her first book, for which she has signed an advanced contract with University of Kentucky Press to publish. Prior to her time at the University of Tennessee, Enkeshi completed her master’s degree in Pan African studies at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York and her bachelor's degree in Psychology and Africana Studies at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia. Along with her research and teaching, Enkeshi maintains an active involvement in community and culture work. She is a producer and co-host of the Black In Appalachia podcast, a collaboration between East Tennessee PBS and Public Radio Exchange (PRX) that seeks to make visible the stories of Black people in and through the Appalachian region. In response to finding feelings of displacement and loss of space for Black communities in her research, Dr. El-Amin founded “The Bottom” in East Knoxville as a hub to build community, celebrate culture, and engage in the creativity of Black people.
Ty Murray is a multi-faceted creative, digital communications director, radio DJ and community activist in Knoxville, TN. Her creative work ranges from poetry and music, to graphic design and photography. As Director of Community Operations at The Bottom since 2020, Ty has served as the muscle of the center’s mission and existence, helping to oversee day-to-day operations and communications. Stepping into her role as Director of Art and Communications, she looks forward to continuously elevate arts and cultural opportunities for Black creatives in Knoxville. Additionally, her photography has been recognized by Appalshop for amplifying cultural diversity in Appalachia and she has participated in the Appalachian Community Fund Affinity Fellowship, working to advance grassroots change in Central Appalachia in new and creative ways. Ty also works as a freelance art assistant for local productions.
AKA " Little Miss Tree Hugger "
Kalil White is originally from Leesville, Louisiana and is the eldest daughter of 10 children. She realized at an early age that she had a passion for nature and community development. She received her Bachelors of Science in Biology with a concentration in Environmental Sustainability from Georgia Southern University in 2018 and her Masters of Science in Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communications from University of Tennessee in 2021. During her grad program she was recognized for her academic achievements by being inducted into the Gamma Sigma Delta Agriculture Honor Society in Spring 2020. Her experience includes serving within several nonprofit organizations that are dedicated to environmental sustainability, community outreach, and serving marginalized communities. Kalil's lifetime goal is to earn a Noble Peace Prize in Environmental Sustainability throughout global marginalized communities. She always prides herself on being the person she needed in her community growing up.
AKA " The Word Nerd "
Annastasia is the Bookstore Manager of the Bookshop at the Bottom. She has always enjoyed reading from an early age, and is an avid reader and lover of books. Her favorite genres are Science Fiction, Fantasy, YA, and Romance, but she reads all kinds of things. As the Bookstore Manager, Annastasia will be curating the inventory at the Bookshop to highlight Black authors and Black-centered stories for all ages. She also manages the montly Book-It subscription. Contact her for book recommendations! Outside of The Bottom, Annastasia works for a non-profit study abroad organization called CIEE, assisting college students with realizing their dreams of having an international experience. In her free time she enjoys reading (of course), traveling, playing board games and The Sims, musicals, spending time with friends, looking at houses she can't afford on Zillow, and hanging out with her dog, Scrappy.
AKA "Grounded Goddess"
Gabbie Jackson is currently the Operations Coordinator at The Bottom where she assists with daily business activities and administrative tasks. Gabbie studied at The University of Memphis, majoring in journalism and she is now an author with emphasis in children's literature. Working in the mental health field, Gabbie has found interest in how the psychological effects of childhood trauma determine how people navigate love, life, and relationships. She also helps those struggling with substance abuse at local recovery centers. Gabbie enjoys reading, writing, watching TV, and spending time with family and friends.
AKA "Social Media Maven"
Madison Payne began her journey at The Bottom as an intern, but after graduating from The University of Tennessee in 2023 she began working full-time as Communications Coordinator. Her role at The Bottom deals with all things website, newsletter, and social media related. As a member of the “digital nomad” generation, she has grown up on social media and in the past has created content as a brand ambassador for Samsung Mobile, Bumble, and Amazon Prime Student. Being born and raised in Memphis has helped Madison recognize the importance of establishing safe spaces for Black people to build community with one another, which is why she is so grateful for the community she has found at The Bottom. In addition to creating content for social media, Madison enjoys spending her free time making Youtube videos, modeling, and acting.