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Dr. John Fleming with Samuel Black, AAAM President       who received the "Dr. John Fleming Award"

The Association of African American Museums
Holds Annual Conference in Riverside

By Lea Michelle Cash/Published 8/11/2016 Frontpage/



                           ( Dr. Norman Towels received AAAM Leadership Award) 

There were ribbons in the sky over the City of Riverside for the Association of African American Museums (AAAM), a national nonprofit organization celebrating 38 years of dedication to serving the interest and needs of Black museums and cultural institutions nationwide finally came west of the Mississippi for their annual conference held at the Riverside Convention Center.

     The Dora Nelson Museum of African American History and the Riverside African American Historical Society, in all of their glory hosted the 2016 AAAM Conference, and what a glorious three days of enriching experiences it was.   The Inland Empire community, along with the entire City of Riverside’s art and culture advocate organizations and nonprofit groups, Assembly members, Mayors, Council members, City officials and community leaders, show up and showed out.   After planning for two years, their day in the sun had arrived to honor the incredible triumphs and undeniable tragedies of the African American experience.  Sending a clear message that looking west was the AAAM’s best decision for a host conference city in Southern California.  The west coast interest in the preservation of African American history and culture and its impact on the world is alive and thriving. 




       The theme of this year’s 2016 conference was “Looking West: New Audiences and New Practices” focusing on the museum and cultural work in the western part of the United States.  Samuel Black, president of AAAM said, “From Hawaii and the Pacific Coast to the Mississippi River, African Americans museums have been telling stories, celebrating arts, promoting Black culture, and educating the populace about their region and distinct culture. As we experience Riverside and the Inland Empire, its museums and culture, we are reminded that the 38th annual meeting and its theme are to impact AAAM’s membership and strengthen relationships in the western part of the country.”  

      The Riverside 2016 Steering committee, which included a wide variety of outstanding planning partners such as the Los Angeles Museum of Tolerance and The African American Museum of the Beginning in Pomona, welcomed conference attendees from all over the country.   The attendees were not disappointed and expressed in large numbers their appreciation to those who dedicated many hours of planning and preparing for the conference and its special events.  

     The Conference featured nearly forty different educational plenary sessions from 8:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday with a wide variety of topics, highlighting inspiration and enhancement to the Black experience and providing the toolkits for that preservations presented by over 90 conference presenters.  The Presenters were from major historical Black museums and colleges.  Adrienne Brooks from Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture moderated, “Telling stories: The Changing Face of the African American Museum Donor” to Ashley Robertson, from Mary McLeod Bethune Foundation-National Historic Landmark Bethune–Cookman University presenting, “Can I Make a Donor Out of You? Accessing Millennial Philanthropy.”    

      Presenter Sherri Camp did a population session of the conference, from the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society. Special moments and highlights of the conference were the keynote speakers at the Opening day and Award luncheon.  The Open Day keynote speaker was Dr. Clayton Carson, a professor at Stanford where he is now Martin Luther King Jr. Centennial professor of History and Ronnie Lott Founding Director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute. 

      The Awards luncheon speaker was Amina J. Dickerson who created Dickerson Global Advisors, as an outgrowth of her 35 years of experience in the nonprofit, corporate and philanthropy sectors.  As the Senior Director of Kraft Foods, she headed the multi-national philanthropic program in hunger relief, the arts, domestic violence, and education.  She also held an executive post within the National Museum of African American Art at the Smithsonian Institution.   Ms. Dickerson said to the attendees, “We must speak with one voice for our collective struggles.”  Both keynote speakers received standing ovations.  



The Award recipients were Samuel Black (Senator John Heinz History Center and president of AAAM).  He received the highest honor, The Dr. John E. Fleming Awards for outstanding expertise and exceptional dedication to African American focused museums nationally and internationally.

     Dr. Norman Towels (Dora Nelson African American Art & History Museum) received the Museum Leadership Award for his leadership and museum professionalism in the field of 10 years or more.   Ashley Jordan (National Underground Railroad Freedom Center) received the Pacesetter Award for her professionalism in the field of 10 years or less demonstrating exceptional innovation and dedication to sustaining African American focused museums nationally and internationally.  

     Then there were student AAAM Fellowship Awards given to Vanessa Moorer (Howard University), Camille M. Bethune-Brown (University of Maryland) and Tatiana Daguillard (Florida A & M University), all present, for their contributions as senior level undergraduate or graduate students, museum professional contributing to the African American Diaspora museum field.        

        On Thursday evening, the Riverside Community College hosted the Gospel concert directed by Gregory J. Thomas, and on Friday the closing ceremonies featured a Block party in front of the Riverside Library, (Mission Street closed down) with The Riverside Art Museum hosting an exhibition and meet and greet covering Southern California Black Artists, Co-curated by renowned artist Charles Bibbs and Lisa Henry.   The Riverside Metropolitan Museum also held its official introduction and viewing of the Smithsonian exhibition, “Changing America” with a champagne toast and musical hits from 1960s with tributes of B.B. King, Maya Angelou and dance performances.

     Before leaving Southern California the conference attendees enjoyed half day and full day post conference tours, which included The Dora Nelson African American Museum and Lake Elsinore, African American History Tour of Los Angeles, The African American Firefighter Museum , California African American Museum, and the Museum of African Art—3rd floor of Macy’s at Baldwin hills Crenshaw Plaza.  Therefore, the conference attendees had a full bird’s eye view of the vibrant and radiance African American museums in Southern California.  


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