A dream fulfilled: Local man opens museum in LaPlace

Published 12:06 am Wednesday, May 11, 2022

LAPLACE — Before vision boards rose in popularity, Derron Cook created his own chart of bucket list goals while in undergrad in the 1990s.

Owning a design firm and creating a nonprofit to work with the youth were among his life-long dreams. After walking across the stage to receive his second master’s degree this past Saturday, Cook is ready to check yet another goal off of his list — creating a museum gallery space.

Cook graduated with a master’s degree in museum studies from Southern University at New Orleans. This achievement will allow him to open an exhibition this summer on the second floor of 105 W. Fifth Street, located at the corner of Main Street in LaPlace.

As an educator at East St. John High School, Cook has had conversations with his students about purpose.

“Here I am in 2022, going for that bucket list goal. For young people, this shows that you have to dream in order to see the world and to have the world see you as well,” Cook said.

He added that this achievement is not only for himself, but for the community as a whole. Through his museum space, Cook will put a spotlight on Black history in St. John the Baptist Parish just in time for this year’s Juneteenth celebration. The exhibit will include photos Cook documented during the November 2019 re-enactment of the 1811 Slave Rebellion that began on the grounds of the Woodland Plantation in LaPlace.

“As an educator, I want to use that talent, which I call my purpose, to continue education outside of the classroom and open up a museum where we can learn about our history in St. John Parish,” Cook said. “A lot of our young people don’t know our history. They don’t know themselves as an individual or as a group of people. We want to provide information so they can treat themselves better once they have some self-worth and self-love.”

As the political divide grows in America concerning how slavery should be addressed in the classroom, Cook said the purpose of the exhibit is not about wrongdoings of ancestors, but about remembering a group of people who were able to triumph over adversity. Cook said both the “liberty or death” banners carried by the enslaved and the “Black lives matter” signs held up at modern-day protests come from the hearts of a group of people who yearn to be seen.

“I believe this conversation is important. Even if you’re not African-American, you can come in and be part of a dialogue that helps better the community as a whole. We can all learn about one another and understand where we come from,” Cook said.

Cook is also proud to be setting an example for his young son and daughter as he opens the exhibition this summer. The museum is dedicated to his mother, friend and collegemate Lorraine Braud Cook (CAU classes of ’99, ’00 and ’01).

“She provided the oxygen, wick, oil and matches for this educational flame that burns within,” Cook said.

Contributions and sponsorships will be welcomed. For more information, call 912-604-6348.