By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide
The Board of Directors and other leaders of the Virginia Beach African-American Cultural Center (AACC) have hired a team of consultants to conduct a feasibility study on its design and cost.
Webb Management Services, a leading provider of cultural facility planning services, will orchestrate a Town Hall meeting February 21 to solicit ideas and suggestions from the African-American community, the cultural community, educational, religious, political and business leaders on the design and amenities inside the facility.
The Community Town Hall meeting will be held on Tuesday, February 21, from 6:30-8 p.m. at Enoch Baptist Church, 5641 Herbert Rd.
The following day, February 22 at the Sandler Center at Virginia Beach’s Towne Center, the consultants will meet individually by appointment only with leaders and representatives from various arts, business and civic organizations, beginning at 8 a.m. to hear their ideas for the proposed facility.
According to Dr. Amelia Ross Hammond, the Project Director for the center, the consultants will compile all of the ideas during these meetings to determine not only the size of the facility and the facilities inside of it, but the overall cost.
“We are hoping that it will be a museum and a community center to display African-American culture and history,” said Hammond. “There should be public space enough for the exhibition of arts, for performance and education, including an auditorium inside and a historic trail outside.
Ross-Hammond said the projected size of the center will be 25,000 square feet and cost nearly $10 million.
Ross-Hammond, a former Virginia Beach City Council member, said that the city donated the 4.89 acres of land at 705 Hampshire Lane which faces Newtown Road.
The AACC would be one of two in the region once built. The African-American Historical Museum facility is located on the campus of Hampton University.
She said the African-American Cultural Center, Inc. is a Nonprofit 501 (c) (3) Non-stock Corporation with an 11-member Board of Directors and Advisory Committee.
She said the AACC’s leaders will launch a capital fundraising campaign once the consultants have made their assessment of overall design of the facility and cost.
“This is why the two days of interviews and communication with the general public and people who are experts and are running such facilities is necessary,” said Ross Hammond. “We want the community to have a hand in the planning and design of the center. We want to know what they want in a facility of this kind. Not only are people from Virginia Beach invited, but from the entire region, because it will impact all of Hampton Roads.”
Dr. Linda Bright is the President of the AACC’s Executive Board of Directors and the President and CEO of Health Care Services of Hampton Roads, Inc.
“You just can’t call it a museum,” said Bright. “This will also be a place to tell our story in Princess Anne County, Virginia Beach and the region. It will show the diversity of our community, not just
African-American cultures but all of them.
Bright said that when she arrived in Hampton Roads in 1969, she learned that most of the land in the Virginia Beach Oceanfront from Oceana was owned by Black people.
“People don’t know that history,” said Bright, who first moved to Lake Edwards when she arrived in Virginia Beach. “I applauded Mrs. Hammond for working so hard on this project, because it’s her vision to provide such a facility not only for the Beach but the whole region.
Once built, the facility will be supported by the city’s departments of Museums, Parks and Recreation and the public schools system, which will help with cultural and educational programming.
Last September 24, on the day the National African-American History Musuem opened in Washington, D.C., a special program was held at the site of the proposed center. Dr. Ross-Hammond said there was a “Blessing of the Land” by a group of religious elders, jazz and gospel music performers, and art work was on display to give the community a taste of the kind of programming which will be provided once the AACC is built.
Ross-Hammond said she hopes even if the facility is not up and running by 2019, a special event will be planned for some time that year which will commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Africans on the shores of North America.
The museum planners hope the facility will establish Virginia Beach as another hub for African-American historic sites and cultural activities in the region.
Once the facility is up and running, Ross Hammond said that the organizers of the facility will be soliciting art work and historical artifacts from the community to be on display.
“We will be asking people to go to their attics and closets and retrieve and donate artifacts which tell our history and contributions to Princess Anne County and Virginia Beach.”