The African American Heritage Society based in Pensacola, Florida was represented at the Florida African American Heritage Preservation Network Statewide Meeting on Thursday and Friday, June 19th and 20th in Jacksonville, Florida. The first day of meetings were held at the Wells Fargo Bank’s Springfield Community Branch on the 2ND Floor that serves as the Jacksonville Economic Empowerment Center which is a program of the National Urban League of Jacksonville.
Althemese Barnes, the Founder and Director of the heritage preservation network, was consistently commended by the statewide heritage preservation membership for her vision and leadership to form the Florida African American Heritage Preservation Network (FAAHPN). In her “President’s Letter” on the organization’s website she states, “African Americans have an abbreviated history of participation in mainstream cultural and historic preservation initiatives.” She added, “As the tourism industry expands to reach new markets, African American museums are critical to the diversification of the industry.”
During the Jacksonville meeting, the African American museums and heritage preservation programs from around the State of Florida participated in presentations and trainings that provided increased focus on capacity building, heritage tourism, realizing the value of intellectual property, fundraising, plans for the 2015 statewide conference, and technology updates for the network membership. For example, Kiah Graham of Sirius Web Solutions presented plans for a new FAAHPN web site promoting an interactive experience for research and discovery. The new web site will provide its members with social media links and engagement capabilities, profiles of their museums, including a searchable digital archive of museum holdings and exhibits with the capability of virtual tours.
Marion McGee, the Assistant Director of the Riley Museum shared fundraising strategies and membership benefits, while Dr. Anthony Dixon, the Associate Director of the network provided and overview of current FAAHPN such as documenting the history of the African American Beaches in the State of Florida. The discussion on intellectual property legal issues was facilitated by Attorney Katharine Rowe of the Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP which is a critical concern for the holdings as they are shared with larger preservation facilities. The significant issue is the recognition of the historical holdings in the marketing of exhibits for future programming and acquisition of grants.
In addition to the meetings and presentations, the network held two field trips to Jacksonville Black museums: the Ritz Theatre and Museum and the Clara White Mission and Museum. The level of presentation and preservation was very professionally offered. There was a robotic James Weldon Johnson speaking with his robotic brother, Rosemond Johnson, on the impact of their composing the Negro National Anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing”! A major exhibit was a hallway that was designed with rooms representing an African American business street similar to memories of Pensacola’s Belmont and DeVilliers Business District. The Clara White Mission and Museum was a social worker’s dream with actual workforce training programs within the preserved mission home of the founder Clara White.
The Florida African American Heritage Preservation Network (“FAAHPN”) is a professional association organized in 2001 under the auspices and leadership of its Founding Director, Althemese Barnes. FAAPHN serves as an informational and technical assistance resource in response to a growing interest in preserving African American culture as well as related ethnically diverse historic properties in Florida. The network has provided leadership, skill development, training, technical assistance, historic site interpretation/exhibit consultations to new and established historic preservation entities. Additionally, the network has planned, and implemented activities to build the capacity of cultural heritage organizations across the state of Florida. More specifically, the network has:
Provided research and content development for the Florida Black Heritage Trail Guide in 2005 and 2007. The guide details a microcosm of African American landmarks and legacies that exist and encourages heritage tourism in various locations throughout the state of Florida.
The FAAHPN hosted the National African American Museum Association (“AAAM”) Annual Conference August 3-6, 2011. There were four days of sessions, heritage tours and cultural events on museum management, historic preservation and industry career options.
Althemese Barnes ends her President’s Letter on the website with, “We welcome you to the network and invite your participation. In the words of Sweet Honey and the Rock, “WE are the ones that we have been waiting for.”