By Nyesha Stone
It all started with James Cameron, the creator of America’s Black Holocaust Museum that resided right here in Milwaukee.
It was founded in 1984, but its doors closed down during the 2008 recession. And now ten years later, ABHM is reopening in Milwaukee thanks to well-known developer Melissa Goins, who worked tirelessly to bring this historic landmark back to Milwaukee.
This past Monday, June 18, the city celebrated the grand opening of the Griot Apartments and the Re-Emergence of ABHM at 401 W. North Ave.
The entire city was there to partake in a moment of history that was so long missed in the community.
“I remember when I was in high school and the museum was shut down,” said board member of the Dr. James Cameron Legacy Foundation. “[The museum] is going to be what brings everybody together.”
Monday’s event was the first showing of the Griot Apartments that are connected to the museum. The apartment already contains residents, but there are still many openings, mainly three-bedroom residencies.
Each apartment is equipped with new appliances and a set of washer and dryers.
Along with the showings was a big event inside of ABHM where multiple prominent figures in the community, and celebrities, spoke to the community about this momentous day.
“It’s an honor to be a part of this,” said Tia Richardson, muralist who’s been working closely with Goins to create different murals for her different developments, including ABHM and the Griot Apartments.
“There’s a legacy about it and it’s important.”
James Cameron’s living son Virgil Cameron spoke at the event by telling his father’s life story. Mr. Cameron survived being lynched at sixteen, and wrote a book about it called A Time of Terror: A Survivor’s Story.
After that life-changing incident, Cameron tried to live his life as best as he could, and during his travels around the world, he visited the Jewish Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. Then it hit him, America needed its own holocaust museum, but for African Americans.
Mr. Cameron visited Milwaukee and saw the Bronzevile neighborhood was thriving, and putting the museum in that part of the city only seemed right.
Thirty-four years later and Mr. Cameron’s work is being kept alive as the Bronzeville neighborhood is being rebuilt from the destruction it went through when the I-94- /I-43 freeways was built.
Change is happening in Milwaukee and the entire city has been waiting for it, and now it’s here.