Originally created 06/13/06

Update is given on black center



AIKEN - Plans for the Center for African American History, Art & Culture are on track, according to the Rev. Doug Slaughter.

The Rev. Slaughter, the chairman of the steering committee for the center and pastor at Second Baptist Church, gave a short update about the project at a city council work session Monday.

"Our goal is to be ready to actually break ground for the center at the beginning of 2007," he said.

The former Immanuel Mission School, which was founded in the 1880s to educate children in the black community, will serve as the home of the cultural center. The Aiken Corp., an independent economic arm of the city that works to revitalize downtown and nearby neighborhoods, owns the building, which is at York Street and Richland Avenue.

"We have over $400,000 in pledges and have collected over 50 percent of that to date," the Rev. Slaughter said.

He said the committee is in its second fundraising campaign, which will focus on churches.

City Manager Roger LeDuc said the city has given the steering committee $50,000 in matching funds.

"The county has allocated funds year by year," the Rev. Slaughter said.

The county's Accommodations Tax Advisory Board recently recommended the county contribute $15,000 to the cultural center.

"The center will be self-funded, and we will not be back for public funds once the center is developed," the Rev. Slaughter said.

He said operating expenses will be covered by money from individuals, corporate sponsors, grants and fundraising activities.

Aiken resident Rosamond McDuffie asked council members whether the city, which is looking for additional office space, could use part of the cultural center to house some of its employees.

"There's no room for office space there," the Rev. Slaughter said. The building has only two large rooms on two levels, he said, and the second story will keep its open floor plan.

Reach Betsy Gilliland at (803) 648-1395, ext. 113, or betsy.gilliland@augustachronicle.com.