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Museums honoring the contributions of minorities are common targets of white supremacy vandals in Donald Trump’s America. In particular, sites memorializing African Americans have experienced an uptick in graffiti and destruction. Just last week, Hyperallergic reported that a sign marking Emmett Till’s death was shot with four bullets on July 21; it was the third sign vandalized in a series of efforts made by the Emmett Till Memorial Commission to commemorate the boy’s death.
That same week, officials at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri found their building flooded after vandals cut through water pipes above the cultural institution’s newly renovated Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center. The museum estimated nearly $500,000 dollars in damages, putting the historical space in financial peril.
One month earlier, another Negro Leagues Baseball landmark faced destruction. A suspected arsonist set the home of pitching legend Satchel Paige on fire in late May, causing potentially irreparable damage.
The Education and Research Center at the museum was the latest addition to a large renovation plan that started in 2011 and has cost $4 million of an estimated $15 million thus far. Just months away from reopening, the museum’s first floor bore the brunt of flood damage.
“There has been a community investment in this project that goes beyond finance,” Negro Leagues Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick told the Bleacher Report. “This was an investment of sweat equity. When we first started cleaning the building up, ordinary people from the community would come in, put their boots on and start gathering debris. A lot of people in Kansas City are hurting right alongside the Negro Leagues Museum, as we think about this very heinous attempt to damage the center.”
The Negro National League was founded at the museum in 1920, when the building still operated as the Paseo YMCA. For decades thereafter, it served as a vital community space for black members from the city’s 18th and Vine District, an area that saw a black renaissance for the arts, music, and athletics. In its heyday, Joe Louis and Jackie Robinson reportedly both passed through Paseo YMCA. “It was the primary meeting place outside of the church, and it was one of the few places African Americans could swim in Kansas City,” Kendrick explained to Bleacher Report.
The Negro National League is where many famous players started their career before the integration of the baseball. Robinson, for example, was a player for the league’s Kansas Monarchs before hitting the big leagues.
Although the museum is still negotiating with its insurance company, its first claim was denied.
Fortunately, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum has seen a groundswell of support in recent weeks with donations coming to the museum from across the country. As a historically community-based organization, the museum has received nearly $200,000 to help shoulder the expenses of reconstruction. Claudia Williams and the board of directors of the Ted Williams Museum in Florida pledged $10,000. The Kansas City Star also reports that Hy-Vee, a supermarket chain, recently gave the museum a $20,000 check. The Kansas City Royals also donated $26,000 in proceeds from a recent charity game in honor of the Negro Leagues. Those wishing to contribute to the fund can go to the museum’s site here.
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“I am trying to keep the immediacy of my emotional experience while I’m painting.”
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