The Weeksville Heritage Center is in danger of closing.
It could happen as soon as July, according to an email sent today by the organization’s President and Executive Director Rob Fields.
“Rising operating costs and the challenging fundraising environment for black cultural institutions have put all the work we do in jeopardy,” he wrote in the email. “We might have to shut our doors in July. It’s that serious.”
To combat some of the financial challenges, they have launched a crowdfunding campaign and hope to raise $200,000 by June 30. “This will enable us to remain open through September and give us time to plan for the future,” the organization says on its campaign page. “Our goal is to come out of this planning with a clear path to sustainability and to ensure that we never find ourselves in this financially vulnerable position again.”
In the five days since the campaign launched, they have raised $1,090 via 13 donations.
This isn’t the first time the center has struggled financially. Just as they were opening their visiting center in 2013, they were forced to lay off half of their 13 staff members after the departure of longtime director Pamela Green and a dwindling budget.
Founded by James Weeks in the 1830s as a free black community, by 1900 they had about 500 residents and their own newspaper. The community established the Zion Home for Aged Colored, Howard Colored Orphan Asylum and Berean Baptist Church.
By the 20th century the street grid changed and Weeksville was swallowed up by the surrounding neighborhoods. The story of the early community and its importance to Brooklyn history began to reemerge in the 1960s.
Community members and historians rallied to save a group of forgotten houses on now-vanished Hunterfly Road that had been part of the community. They landmarked the houses and created a research and educational center and museum that celebrates historic and contemporary African-American culture.
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