On June 5, 2019, the African American Research Library & Cultural Center (AARLCC) hosted a public reception welcoming the new library regional manager, Ms. Makiba Foster. Belvit Jordan, AV Productions Specialist in Programs and Exhibits, bragged with glee “Makiba comes to the Broward County Libraries Division from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a research division of the New York Public Library located in Harlem, where she served as the assistant chief librarian.” On behalf of the library staff, Jordan expressed to On the Scene the excitement surrounding Foster’s arrival as an opportunity for the library to continue to be a staple and prominent resource within our community.
In talking to Foster, we learned that libraries are not just places where you check out books and use the free internet but a cultural institution designed to document and preserve history, follow genealogy and ensure that residents are equipped to advance in the technological space. With a focus on Black Culture, The AARLCC opened in 2002 with library director Sam Morrison leading the charge. Between friends of AARLCC and the Black community, Morrison and his team raised $500,000.00 to build and development the library. We spoke to Morrison who said, he retired in 2003 having achieved his goal of building and opening the library. He also said, “My vision was to provide services and programs that emphasized the contributions of the African American diaspora, historically and culturally, inclusive of local people” like the Sistrunk and Mizell families.
Makiba Foster comes to the table with experience and expertise that will allow her to mirror and expand not only Morrison’s vision but also Kelvin Watson’s legacy. She holds two Master’s Degrees, one in Library and Information Studies and a second in American Studies, with a concentration in African American Popular Culture but she revealed to us that she recognizes that “libraries in general have a relevance problem.” AARLCC is more than just books. It is a hub for understanding and celebrating Black experiences and narratives.
It was easy to find that Foster’s accomplishments include devising and securing funding for innovative, digital humanities projects in St. Louis as well as establishing a groundbreaking web archiving program for the Schomburg Center, and she is ready to make her signature programming at AARLCC easy for the community to find and be a part of. Her first line of business centers around motivating her staff to “tell our unknown stories”, reminding them that “Black people are magnificent”, and encouraging them to be “the bridge between scholarly and lay communication.” Supported by her staff and friends of AARLCC, Foster will merge passion, knowledge and experience to provide resources for small and minority owned businesses, the community and nearby residents.
In turn, we must be intentional about spreading the word. It is a wonderful time to be a part of the library family, so tell everyone you can about the new library manager. They need us to attend events, suggest programming, provide feedback and volunteer to help. With our support at events and on social media, we can contribute to a fresh perspective at AARLCC. We can reshape the narrative of our community, our history, the culture and its trajectory.
Morrison told On the Scene, times, ideas and methods change. “But it remains essential that libraries collect materials that preserve ideas of any given time.” Accordingly, he is “personally happy about Makiba Foster. She comes from Schomberg, one of the models, the blueprint – of how to focus on the African American experience and I believe she will take the library to the next level.” Ms. Makiba Foster, on behalf of On the Scene and the entire Westside Gazette family, we welcome you to the African American Research Library. The entire progressive community and I look forward to serving you.
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