Weeksville Heritage Center launches funding campaign
by Benjamin Fang
May 14, 2019 | 2176 views | 0 0 comments | 600 600 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Leaders of a historic Brooklyn institution say they are in jeopardy of closing by July due to lack of funding.

Earlier this month, Rob Fields, president and executive director of the Weeksville Heritage Center in Crown Heights, sent out a message to supporters asking for their help

Twelve days after launching an online fundraising campaign, the organization has received nearly $245,000 from 3,754 contributors.

That surpasses their goal of raising $200,000 by June 30, which, according to the campaign, would enable the center to remain open through September.

Among the crowdfunding campaign’s donors is actor and Brooklyn native Michael K. Williams, who has starred in shows like “The Wire” and “Boardwalk Empire.”

“Your donation will give us the time we need to develop a plan for how to operate and fund Weeksville so that we never find ourselves in this financially vulnerable position again,” Fields wrote in the email. “Help us protect Brooklyn’s black history and inspire generations to come.”

Weeksville was a neighborhood that was formed in 1838 by James Weeks, a free black man who purchased a plot of land along with other African-American entrepreneurs on what is now Buffalo Avenue in Crown Heights.

At its height, Weeksville had about 500 residents. But as Brooklyn developed, the neighborhood faded away.

In the late 1960s, artist and community organizer Dr. Joan Maynard founded the Society for the Preservation of Weeksville and Bedford-Stuyvesant History, which became the Weeksville Heritage Society.

After discovering four houses from historic Weeksville in dilapidated condition, Maynard and the society saved the homes and “envisioned a black museum that would educate and enrich Central Brooklyn and beyond,” Fields wrote.

The house museum today has a cultural and arts education building, resource center, art gallery, performance space and workshop space.

But the cultural institution’s funding sources have struggled to keep pace with the rising costs of maintaining the century-old structures, Fields wrote.

“Brooklyn is changing all around us,” he wrote, “and Weeksville’s work and mission to preserve the history of one of the largest free black communities pre-Civil War America is too important to lose.”

In a statement, Borough President Eric Adams said organizations like Weeksville do not benefit from major endowments or public relations attention that support other institutions.

He said it’s “heartening” to see New Yorkers rally to save the museum in its hour of need.

“Ultimately, a long-term sustainable funding strategy must be implemented to keep the organization going into the coming decades, and my administration stands ready to assist as best we are able,” Adams said. “Brooklyn’s black history must be preserved, promoted and well patronized.”
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