The Cumberland County Board of Commissioners voted to earmark $450,000 for a proposed African American museum earlier this week.

The county appropriation would pay for a portion of the first phase, a feasibility study, with the remaining $895K coming from the City of Fayetteville. The Fayetteville City Council will receive a similar briefing and funding request at its May 2 work session.

Dr. Dauv Evans, the associate director of the proposed downtown museum, made the presentation, calling the museum a “must-see stop on the Civil Rights Tour.”

Evans said the museum would be fully interactive as it would tell the story of Blacks in Fayetteville by collecting compelling stories from local African Americans.

“It will reconceptualize the Market House from a source of division to a point of unity,” he said. The history will span from noted Fayetteville African American author and essayist Charles Chestnutt to locally grown rapper J. Cole.

The vote was 5 to 1, with Commissioner Jimmy Keefe being the lone dissenter. Commissioner Charles Evans remotely voted by phone; however, Commissioner Michael Boose was absent.

Before the vote, Keefe said he was not aware of the project. “What’s the process? I was not aware this was in the pipeline,” he said.

The project was first introduced at the board’s agenda meeting on April 14, just prior to the Easter holiday.

Keefe said he was uncomfortable fast-tracking a half-million-dollar project using taxpayer money without having more information and discussion.

He asked what the total amount of the museum would cost. Another presenter, William Cassell, said he could not give Keefe a total dollar amount. “I can’t predict [the amount]. There’s no bottom-line number,” he said.

He said the museum would bring people downtown and become a “model for how the community reconciles its history with race.”

Commissioner Jeanette Council motioned to set aside the $450,000, saying she was excited over the proposed museum’s ability to become a teaching tool for young students. Commissioner Toni Stewart seconded the motion. While agreeing that the board was fast-tracking the project, she said it was “way overdue.”

Commissioner Charles Evans said he was disappointed with fellow Commissioner Keefe for questioning the project, specifically asking how many other African American museums currently existed. He was told there were about 40, and Keefe – a former Army officer – suggested that Fayetteville’s history is heavily centered on the military, and they should look into honoring African American service members of note.

Sir David Adjaye, a Ghanaian-British award-winning architect, is the proposed architect for the project. His company has offices located in London and New York. The largest project by Adjaye Associates is the National Museum of African American History and Culture, located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., which opened in 2016.

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