Learning about African American history does not need to be relegated to just the month of February and a week in June, especially in the culturally rich South. Trying to sequester African Americans' efforts in the United States to the shortest month of the year only continues to influence and downplay the groundbreaking accomplishments of the country we all recognize and enjoy today.
Baton Rouge, like many Southern cities, has a vast history related to a population that continues to be a ruling minority. Because of this, youth and adults in the South may faintly hear about the efforts made by African American people in Baton Rouge during the Civil Rights Movement, yet never truly experience the depth and courage it undertook to correct hundreds of years of injustice.
Every so often an event will cause fevered interest in diving into this history, but time and again, it wanes into the background noise of everything else happening. One such event was the heartbreaking murder of Mrs. Sadie Roberts-Joseph, a matriarchal leader in Baton Rouge Black communities. For a short time after this tragedy, news and publications posthumously celebrated Sadie’s efforts in building the Baton Rouge African American History Museum, a much-needed cultural landmark in the city. Yet, now nearly 4 years later, the fervor has quieted down.
Over the last year, the children and relatives of Sadie Roberts-Joseph have begun working on a relocation of the museum to a larger facility at 805 St. Louis Street. This relocation does not go without needs, as retrofitting an old office space to a tourable timeline of local Southern achievements in Black History continues to be fundraised for.
"It's a large building," Angela Machen, daughter of Sadie Roberts-Joseph, notes. "We will have displays that will stay year-round, and we will also have areas or presentations that will be short-term. We'll have an area devoted to African ancestors, legends and Louisiana leaders. We'll have inventions and rural artifacts. And we'll have the bus, which is from the original Baton Rouge Bus Boycott that we will bring over and integrate into the design of the building. We will have a reading room and we will have a space where people can come in and record their own histories. And the whole purpose is to empower people to become their best selves."
The Walls Project is leaning in to help support such an effort, looking to fundraise a match for a landmarking mural on the new building’s facade. The Walls Project, of course, approached this effort with a desire to make the fundraiser exciting and engaging. Teaming up with Chelsea’s Live and Yellow Door Productions, Walls is producing a benefit concert on May 20, 2023.
Guest artists such as Ladyee V, DJ Moose Harris, and Joe Scott aim to enliven the audience as presenter and artist Jazz Bandito keep the crowd going. All ticket proceeds contribute to a match supported by the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge. Once the mural is matched, any surplus funds raised go directly to supporting the relocation costs of the Baton Rouge African American Museum.
An event during Juneteenth, hosted by the museum will create a walking movement of artifacts from the old museum’s location to its new home.
Sponsors for this event and funding the relocation of the African History Museum include ExxonMobil, Humana Louisiana, CADAV, and the Scotlandville CDC.
Please consider supporting the work of the Baton Rouge African American Museum, The Walls Project, and its partners by purchasing a ticket now or directly donating here.