By Tashi McQueen,
AFRO Political Writer,
On Feb. 13 Frances “Toni” Draper, CEO and publisher of the AFRO American Newspapers, and Savannah Wood, executive director of the AFRO Charities, accepted a $2.25 million in federal funds earmarked for community project funding.
“How fitting is it that after 130 years, AFRO Charities is redeveloping this 15,000 square foot building,” said Draper. “We are here today to celebrate a landmark, funding and this community.”
AFRO Charities is in charge of the AFRO American Newspaper’s archives and connecting the Baltimore community through educational and art projects.
“This has been a labor of love for some time,” said Rep. Kweisi Mfume (MD-D-07). “We are going to pray that these congressional earmarks continue. Community projects are needed all over America, putting resources into communities and giving them new life again.”
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Wanda Best, executive director of the Upton Planning Committee and Darroll Cribb, the president of the Upton Planning Committee also attended the event.
“My grandparents started the AFRO here in Upton because it is the oldest historic Black district in the country and it’s where they worked, lived and worshiped,” said Draper.
The AFRO will lease approximately 3,000 square feet of the building.
“The Upton Mansion, like the AFRO, has had a long history,” said Wood. “It was part of a large plantation…and the home to the Baltimore Institute of Musical Arts, a racially inclusive option to then racially divided Peabody.”
“When we open, this will be the first time in years that the entire collection will be under one roof and accessible to the public,” Wood continued. “This gift is a major step towards making our vision for the Upton Mansion and AFRO archives a reality.”
The federal funding will also aid in the digitization of the vast archive, which holds about three million photographs.
Tashi McQueen is Report For America Corps member.