While at the Mayme E. Clayton Library and Museum Saturday night to unveil our latest 2009 Black Students Internet Guide, CEO Avery Clayton, son of the late founder and namesake for the West Coast’s premiere African-American heritage archive, let us know that the federal grant to support part of the renovation costs for the 24,000 sq. ft. facility had come through.
The library is an example of the perseverance that has marked the African-American journey in America. In July, the first African-American president will journey back to the Gold Coast of Ghana, from whence so many of our ancestors set forth for the Western Hemisphere.
Mrs. Clayton, a librarian, recognized what Avery calls the “nobility” of the black experience and began collecting every scrap of heritage she could get her hands on, from Phyllis Wheatley’s book to 1,700 films predating 1970.
She had no idea her son would take the collection from her garage and storage to the planned expansion of the existing building with a six story tower with an additional 76,000 sq. ft., but she did her part by creating the collection.
Avery has enlisted support from UCLA to catalog the collection and from Howard University’s School of Architecture to help design the new structure. Notable collectors have already added their art to his collection.
But this sacrifice does not come without a cost for the rest of us. It will take upwards of $10 million to build the new space and additional millions for on-going operations.
Avery tells one vignette which sums up why it is such a minimal cost. Recently, 43 young men from a local chapter of the Links volunteered to help catalog. The teenagers were so enthralled that they didn’t want to leave. One young gentleman picked up a photo with his white gloves and exclaimed excitedly, “That’s my grandfather in that picture.” There are so many more journeys of self-discovery awaiting the grand opening of the Clayton Library and Museum. We all should take part in fulfilling Mrs. Clayton’s dream.