City of Aiken to take ownership of African American center

·2 min read

Jan. 27—The city of Aiken is set to acquire the Center for African American History, Art and Culture after City Council's meeting on Jan. 24.

The city is getting the center, located at 120 York St., free of charge, and the transfer will take effect on March 4.

The city has contributed funds of at least $621,000 for the renovation of the center over the last five years, according to agenda notes.

The center was closed for a time due to these renovations, but reopened in June 2021 for a Juneteenth celebration. Since that time, the center has been rented out numerous times, according to agenda notes.

Center board members began discussions around a year ago to transfer the property to the city, the notes read. In addition to this transfer, the city has entered into a memorandum of understanding with First Baptist Church, located across the street, to maintain the parking lot and lighting so both the church and the center can use the space.

Jennifer Curtis, president of the center's board of directors, briefly spoke at the meeting, saying this is a moment she's been looking forward to. She was one of several board members who attended the meeting.

Councilwoman Lessie Price applauded the center's board members for their work, despite them being volunteer positions.

"These folks work full-time jobs and have families, and in spite of all of the things that this center has undergone in terms of renovations and other things, the programs I've seen have managed to grow under this board," Price said. "So, I want to applaud you for your passion and your desire to see (the center) open fully, but also seeing the vision of what this can become."

City Council passed the resolution unanimously, 7-0.

The center's location is the former home of the historic Immanuel Institute, which was a church and school for freed enslaved people built in 1889.

The center itself aims to be an "educational resource with interactive programs of sight and sound that educate and inspire, that celebrate both Aiken's diversity and its sense of community and that demonstrate the many contributions of African Americans in Aiken County, in South Carolina and in our nation," according to its website.

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