Home Bensalem Times Fundraiser for African American Museum of Bucks set for Dec. 2 at...

Fundraiser for African American Museum of Bucks set for Dec. 2 at Parx

Proceeds from the ‘Building Our Dream’ cocktail reception will go to its permanent home at Boone Farm

Building their dream: Proceeds from a cocktail reception fundraiser on Dec. 2 at Parx Casino will help complete the renovation of Boone Farm, which will be the permanent home of the traveling African American Museum of Bucks County. Source: African American Museum of Bucks County

The impossible is becoming possible for the African American Museum of Bucks County.

It was in 2014 that Harvey Spencer, who served as the First Baptist Church of Langhorne’s board of trustees chairman, set the wheels in motion for a traveling museum that would tell the history and stories of African Americans who accomplished great things right in Bucks County.

Once this roving museum was established, trekking to schools, libraries and senior centers with ever-changing exhibits and artifacts, Spencer wanted more.

He wanted a building that the museum could call home.

Though Spencer passed away shortly after sharing this dream with current museum president Linda Salley, she and the rest of the AAMBC team are expected to make his vision a reality by the end of 2022 with the help of the community.

On Thursday, Dec. 2, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Parx Casino East, 3001 Street Road in Bensalem, the AAMBC is hosting the “Building Our Dream” cocktail reception fundraiser. All proceeds will benefit the renovation of the museum’s soon-to-be permanent home at Boone Farm, located at 827 Langhorne-Newtown Road in Middletown Township.

“The wish of a dying man was heard and is coming full circle. This is an amazing experience,” Salley told The Times. “Our museum, as small as it may be, will complete the story of all the museums that are on display today in Bucks County. When you walk into those museums, they’re beautiful. They tell the story of every walk of people who came through, but they don’t tell our story. Now, the whole story will be told.”

Attendees at the cocktail reception will enjoy hors d’oeuvres, a cash bar, live music and a silent auction. Three individuals will also be named 2021 AAMBC honorees – Dr. Marion Lane, Bucks County professor and historian; Claire Smith, award-winning sports journalist; and the late Sam Snipes, Esq., with the Snipes Family accepting his honor.

For Salley, it’s a thrill to be so close to completing the goal of Spencer, who felt there was something special about the property, despite its withered appearance. He first broached the topic during a drive to St. Mary Medical Center, where Salley would regularly take him for appointments.

“He looked across the street and said, ‘Linda, that building over there is a perfect building to put a museum.’ I said, ‘That’s an old building. It would cost a lot of money to restore it,’” reflected Salley. “But he was convinced it was perfect and kept bringing it up at meetings.”

Spencer was so passionate about the building that Salley traveled to 55 Court St. in Doylestown to inquire about who owned it. Here, Salley encountered Bucks County Commissioner chairwoman Diane Ellis-Marseglia, who asked how she could help the museum. While Marseglia couldn’t assist with a building, she agreed to get the AAMBC a van – a safer travel option than its caravan at the time.

A few months later, Salley received an unexpected call at 9 p.m. – Marseglia told her that the commissioners agreed to let the museum rent the Boone Farm property for $1 per year. Salley was overjoyed but had no idea where Boone Farm was situated. When Marseglia shared the address, Salley burst into tears. This was the same building that Spencer set his sights on several years ago. It was also one that Salley didn’t realize she already knew the fascinating history of.

“Boone Farm is where a lot of African Americans worked when they came up from the south. They migrated from the south and they worked Boone Farm,” she said. “That was the only place when they came up that paid them fair wages.”

Vast history: Boone Farm, the soon-to-be permanent home of the African American Museum of Bucks County, was where many African Americans worked when they migrated from the south. It was the only place that paid them fair wages. Source: African American Museum of Bucks County

According to Salley, renovations are expected to be completed by the end of 2022. Like most things during the COVID-19 pandemic, construction was paused for over a year and a half.

Once finished, guests can learn about various aspects of African American history, from captivity to escape, their resilience through it all, and their contributions to art, culture, politics, sports and other areas in Bucks County. There will also be stories about the Quakers, who Salley said prohibited slavery in their bylaws.

“This is profound,” she said. “We hope these stories will give our people and other people an eye-opening togetherness, which is what brought us all together. Let’s not break that, let’s keep that love going. If they loved us in the 1700s to give us land so that we could be free, let us not forget that, which I think a lot of people have.”

The AAMBC remains the only museum dedicated to African American history and culture in the county. Salley is grateful to Parx Casino for sponsoring its Dec. 2 cocktail reception.

“We are proud to host the African American Museum of Bucks County and proud of all their efforts to share the African American legacy and experience in Bucks County,” said Ron Davis, director of diversity and community development at Parx Casino.

Tickets for the “Building Our Dream” cocktail reception are $150 per person and can be purchased at infoaambc.org.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com

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