Preservationist Of Black Historic Places Calls On Community To Donate To Paducah Organizations
A leading preservationist of historic African-American places across the nation is calling on the Paducah residents to donate to community organizations in honor of Black History Month and the past Black leaders in Paducah.
Paducah-native Brent Leggs is the executive director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a $25 million campaign launched in 2017 to preserve historic African-American places and sites.
Leggs, speaking Thursday morning to Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce leadership, said he is personally donating $500 to the Oscar Cross Boys & Girls Club and the Hotel Metropolitan, a local historic African-American-owned hotel that provided accommodations for African-American travelers during the era of segregation. He encouraged others to also donate, dedicating his donation to the memory of Oscar Cross, a past Paducah civic leader, and the past owners of Hotel Metropolitan.
“It is this community’s social responsibility to preserve our shared history and collective memory. We must protect, care for, interpret, steward and tell our story,” Leggs said. “Not just for the short-term, but to ensure our immortality and permanence.”
The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund launched in 2017 to provide $25 million in supporting preservation of more than 100 historic African-American places across the country, including historic Rosenwald schoolhouses in Kentucky and elsewhere, the boyhood home of civil rights leader Macolm X, and the gym of famed boxer Joe Frazier in Philadelphia. Leggs compared Frazier’s gym as a gathering place for Black youth to the Oscar Cross Boys & Girls Club.
“[Frazier] was a surrogate father to many Black children in the west side of Philadelphia. His gym was a safe haven for Black youth,” Leggs said. “I’m sure this reminds you of someone that we love and admire, known as Mr. Oscar Cross.”
Throughout his presentation to the local chamber, Leggs emphasized the importance of preserving Black historical places as a way to remind communities of their potential while also remembering the contributions of African-Americans in shaping the country. He also said this preservation can be a vehicle for social and racial justice, mentioning how the historic Columbia Theatre in Paducah tells a story about the past era of segregation.
“Our community would enter on the side of the building, walk up steps, and could only sit in the balcony. I wonder, how will Paducah interpret this part of our collective story?” Leggs said.
Leggs’ presentation was part of the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce’s “Power in Partnership” breakfast series, sponsored by the McCracken County Community Career Endowment and the Paducah-McCracken County NAACP. See more of Leggs’ presentation on the chamber’s Facebook page.