Monday, 17 November 2014

"THE LITTLE CHAPEL THAT COULD": THE FUGITIVE SLAVE CHAPEL PRESERVATION PROJECT

AFRICAN CANADIAN HISTORY

BY: BLAIR NEWBY

As future museum and heritage professionals, we all know that funding for culture can be precarious. Grants may not be given, donations and sponsorships can decrease and admission and gift shop sales can decline. I know firsthand how difficult it can be to procure funds for a museum. As the Director of the Chatham-Kent Black Mecca Museum, I had to go before Council and ask that our Community Development Grant be granted year after year. In our case, I am thankful that the Council saw the value in our museum. But I know that this is not always case, as I saw in 2013 other cultural institutions lose their funding as the budget for cultural initiatives decreased. I have also seen community activists and supporters band together to prevent the closing or the demolition of historic buildings and museums. One such initiative includes what many have referred to as the “Little Chapel that Could”.

London's first Black Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
To prevent the demolition of the first Black Church in London, Ontario, a group of like-minded individuals from London’s African Canadian, Heritage/ Historic, and SoHo communities initiated the Fugitive Slave Chapel Preservation Project (FSCPP). Built in 1848, the AME Church was a refuge for Fugitive Slaves. It was a place where they were able to heal both spiritually and psychologically from the horrors of slavery. The goal of FCSPP was to raise enough funds to move the African Methodist Church from its present location to a lot located next to the Beth Emmanuel Church in London. Once relocated, FSCPP members intend to install a small exhibit as well as create a small African Canadian History library.

The Move!
The FSCPP estimated that stage one and two of the project would cost $165,000.00. Receiving a $60,000.00 grant from the City of London, the FSCPP raised the rest of the funds through a public donation drive and by hosting events, such as plays and concerts. Although, the FSCPP has not raised the entire $165,000.00, the project team had successfully raised $133,621,88. And this past Wednesday, November 12, the Fugitive Slave Chapel was finally moved.

Its new home.
 The FSCPP truly embodies a community driven fundraising project. So in conclusion, I would like to say congratulations to the Fugitive Slave Church Preservation Project team members. Moreover, I would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to you. Because of your efforts a piece of Canada’s history will not be lost.

1 comment:

  1. Few people realize the work that goes into these projects, so I'm glad you talked about the fundraising aspects and actual logistics of the physical move. And what stunning photographs - I was equally blown away when I saw the images from Campbell House's move. Thank you for sharing this positive story, Blair.

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