How fast can a decade fly by? Few know that better than Drs. Barbara Seals Nevergold and Peggy Brooks-Bertram, who established the Uncrowned Queens Institute for Research and Education on Women, Inc. over ten years ago. They haven’t had a dull moment since.
Initially established as a project of the Women’s Pavilion of Pan Am 2001, the goals of Uncrowned Queens were to commemorate the history of African and African-American involvement in the Pan American Exposition of 1901, and to profile the accomplishments and contributions of African American women during the hundred years since the Exposition. The founders realized the importance of the project to collect, disseminate and archive the histories of African American women and the local African American community.
Buffalo Rising, and this author in particular, have been fans of the Institute and its founders. If you’ve been following along, the last year has been a challenging one for them, with the need to find a new home base. But this Sunday will be a day of celebration, as the Institute observes the 10th anniversary of the debut launch of its website, with a presentation and reception at the Buffalo Museum of Science. The event, free and open to the public, will begin at 4:00 pm.
The program will include the presentation of the 2011 Culture Keeper Award, established by the Institute in 2002 to recognize organizations and/or individuals who have been instrumental in preserving the cultural and historical assets of the African-American community. The 2011 awardees include the Buffalo Teachers Federation, Key Bank Foundation, and Tops Markets.
“We are excited and proud about this historical milestone. The support of the Buffalo community has made the first 10 years a community journey. Without the support of so many individuals and organizations our vision would not have become a reality,” said co-founder Dr. Nevergold.
Another highlight of the evening will be the introduction of the Institute’s new website, www.uncrownedcommunitybuilders.com, which features the historic biographical archives of Uncrowned Queens, Uncrowned Kings, and Uncrowned Queens & Kings in the Wings under one banner. According to the Institute, the website expansion plans include adding the biographies of men and women of diverse backgrounds that have been instrumental in creating the tapestry that is the strength of the Buffalo community.
Co-founder Dr. Brooks-Bertram noted, “as we look back over the last decade, we are amazed at the number of people that we have met and have been introduced to through their biographies. The collective histories featured on the website represent a cultural network that we hope will inspire and educate future generations by the stories of leadership, personal achievement, and perseverance exhibited by the community builders who helped shape our region.”
Other highlights of the last ten years, cited by the Institute, include:
- The publication of five books: Uncrowned Queens: African American Women Community Builders of Western New York Volumes I, II, III, and Uncrowned Queens: African American Women Community Builders of Oklahoma, and the most recent, Go, Tell Michelle: African American Write to the New First Lady ( SUNY Press, 2009). Go, Tell Michelle is a book of letters, prose, and poetry written by African American and African women from around the world. The letters were compiled by Barbara Seals Nevergold and Peggy Brooks-Bertram, the co-editors.
- Building on the success of Go, Tell Michelle, an audio book, a Facebook page, a Go, Tell Michelle Sisterhood Network Blog have been developed. And most recently, a dramatic adaptation for the stage. The book is also being used in select college classrooms in subjects like Women’s Studies, History, and Black Studies.
- The July, 2009 introduction of the Uncrowned Community Builders Kiosk. The technology-enhanced kiosk, incorporating a computer, camera, microphones, and scanner, is designed to give individuals the opportunity to record their own histories or biographical information about family members and acquaintances at a remote location like a library.
- The February, 2011 national premier of the play Go, Tell Michelle was performed in San Diego, California by the Mo’olelo Theatre Company at the 10the Avenue Theatre.
Western New York has an especially rich African-American history, whether it’s the Underground Railroad, the Niagara Movement, the struggle to desegregate the schools, and the ongoing effort to build and maintain community amid economic and social challenges. If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to be part of a Black History Month event this year, this event will be well worth your time and attention!