Unique Grass Roots Cultural Resource Center Threatened
Sylvia Roberts, founder and executive director of MLBHF, with her book, Mining for Freedom: Black History Meets the California Gold Rush, which showcases a proud but forgotten legacy.
Sonora, CA (BlackNews.com) -- One year ago, the only cultural resource center in California dedicated entirely to the preservation and promotion of the history of the estimated 5,000 African American pioneers who were an early and integral part of the 1849 Gold Rush officially opened the doors on its new facility, after three years of planning and preparation.
Next month, those doors may now have to close.
The Mother Lode Black Heritage Foundation (MLBHF) is a small, grass-roots, nonprofit organization in Sonora, California, working in partnership with the National Park Service (NPS) and local and regional organizations to celebrate the memory, honor the dignity and share the legacy of a unique group of African American pioneers who have been overlooked by mainstream history for more than 150 years.
According to Guy Washington, NPS Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Pacific West Regional Manager, "Historical information generated through the Foundation has great and widespread value to educators, researchers and writers interested in developing and presenting stories of American pioneer history." Utilizing programs, publications and exhibits, MLBHF has been sharing this unique history since 2007 and acts as a repository for collected documents, artifacts and photos.
At the end of July, due to unavoidable life circumstances of a major donor, MLBHF unexpectedly lost funding, leaving an immediate budget shortfall of $24,000 in their operating expenses and leaving them unable to commit to a 12-month lease renewal due at the end of this month. Funding issues, always a challenge for small non profits, are in this case exacerbated by timing and today's tough economic landscape. Plans are in place to pursue future, sustainable funding for operating expenses, but these plans are clearly jeopardized by the impending close.
Sylvia Alden Roberts, author of Mining for Freedom: Black History Meets the California Gold Rush, is founder and executive director of MLBHF. Roberts has dedicated the last eight years to researching this history and, according to Paul Gardullo, curator of the Smithsonian Institution's African American Museum of History and Culture, her book is "a true contribution to the field and will be a great resource."
The Foundation is determined to move forward. According to Roberts, "To continue to neglect this segment of the past in mainstream history not only fosters negative cultural stereotypes, it denies future generations - of all ethnicities - an opportunity to learn valuable lessons about overcoming extreme adversity with hard work, perseverance and pride."
The Mother Lode Black Heritage Foundation cannot continue to teach those lessons, unless it finds a way to keep its doors open.
To support this effort, please make checks payable to Mother Lode Black Heritage Foundation and mail to 21 Theall Street, Sonora, CA 95370. The IRS recognizes any donation of $250 or more to a nonprofit, 501 (c)(3) organization as a qualified, charitable donation. MLBHF will provide all qualified donors with written acknowledgement of tax deductible donations, which may be used as tax receipts.
For more information, please contact Sylvia Roberts at (209) 532-3400 or via email at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
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