Anthony and Joanne Cunningham moved from New York City to Rocky Mount in early 2020 with the dream of opening their own Haitian restaurant, Kafe Louverture.

Inspired by their friend and mentor Lloyd Porter, a Brooklyn-based actor and restaurant entrepreneur, they hoped to replicate Porter’s unique abilities to support a wide range of arts while offering fine food in a welcoming atmosphere.

On May 6, Porter succumbed to COVID-19 in a Brooklyn hospital. Porter’s wife, Hillary, had given Anthony an antique church pew to bring with him to Rocky Mount. After Porter’s death, Anthony asked Red Oak Wood Shop owner Marilynn Barner Anselmi to refurbish the piece in honor of his friend.

“Missing from the Bench” is an art installation that honors the life and accomplishments of Lloyd Porter along with the almost 24,000 NYC victims and Nash and Edgecombe counties residents who have died of the disease. More than 100 residents of Nash and Edgecombe counties have died of COVID-19, with 3,744 deaths total in North Carolina as of Oct. 11.

“Missing from the Bench” will be on display at Blanche’s Bistro at 116 Tarboro St. in Rocky Mount beginning on Oct. 23. The opening ceremony will be restricted to invited officials and families of COVID-19 victims from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. The installation will be open for public viewing from Oct. 24 through Nov. 6.

Families of victims are encouraged to bring photos to add to the installation. Seating is strictly limited and potential attendees should call Neva Blackwell at 252-908-2193 for reservations. Masking and social distancing will be enforced.

Questions may be directed to Anthony Cunningham at