Nonprofit Spotlight: Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum (MCLM)

Photo Collage Courtesy of the Mayme A, Clayton Library & Musuem

Photo Collage Courtesy of the Mayme A, Clayton Library & Museum

Intersections’ Nonprofit Spotlight profiles organizations propelling positive change in South L.A.


Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum features classic issues of Jet Magazine | Photo Courtesy of Mayme A Clayton Library & Museum

Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum features classic issues of Jet Magazine | Photo Courtesy of Mayme A Clayton Library & Museum

What is the purpose of the Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum? Dr. Clayton, a university librarian, collector, and historian, believed that preserving and sharing the scattered and often neglected history of Americans of African descent was vitally important for current and future generations. Working independently for over 40 years, Dr. Clayton meticulously amassed a collection characterized as “one of the finest collections of African-American literature, manuscripts, films, and ephemera in private hands.”

Photo from the Freedom Riders Exhibition | Photo Courtesy of Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum

Photo from the Freedom Riders Exhibition | Photo Courtesy of Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum

Which areas does the Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum‘s serve?

Culver City, West L.A., Baldwin Hills, South L.A. and Inglewood.

What services does the Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum‘s provide? 

Tours, research opportunities, filming opportunities, intern assignments, monthly movies, meeting spaces.

What are some of the Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum‘s accomplishments? 

MCLM’s Rare Books Collection contains more than 30,000 rare and out-of-print books written by or about African Americans. Our film archive contains over 700 film titles from 1916 in 16mm, 35mm, VHS, and DVD formats.

What does the Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum consider as…

Grace Bumbry, opera singer, portraying Eboli in Verdi's Don Carol at the NY Metropolitan Opera | Photo Courtesy of the Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum Photo Collection

Grace Bumbry, opera singer, portraying Eboli in Verdi’s Don Carol at the NY Metropolitan Opera | Photo Courtesy of the Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum Photo Collection

…top recreational issues in South L.A.? South L.A is trying to become a more vibrant, recreational place to come to.

…top education issues in South L.A.? The need for more after-school and school vacations programs for kids.

In which areas could the Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum use volunteers? 

Docent, archiving, digitizing, reception, social media and marketing, newsletter, computer maintenance.

What are Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum’s affiliated programs? Educational ToursManuscripts and Archives Collection, Rare Books Collection, Film and Recorded Sound Archives, Photographs and Prints Collection, Art and Artifacts Collection.

Social Media: Facebook, Twitter

Hours: Thursday, Friday and Saturday 10:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Contact info: Cara Adams, [email protected], 310-202-1647.

Jefferson Branch Library: Never judge a book by its cover

By Alex Abels

The third of a four-part series on Jefferson Park and the changing urban neighborhood.

imageThe Jefferson Branch Library, open for nearly a century, is a building that has witnessed the changing landscape and make-up of the Jefferson Park community. It is one of the few buildings in the neighborhood placed on the National Registrar of Historic Places, recognizing its early 20th century Spanish-style architecture.

Over time, the functions of the American public library have changed, particularly found in urban communities. In some locations, patrons use the library’s computers to look for jobs. Homeless people use it as a respite from the elements. Some locations increasingly use it as a community center. Virtually all libraries have expanded their scope in one way or another, and the Jefferson Park branch is no exception.

Named in honor of Vassie D. Wright, founder of the first Black History celebration in Los Angeles in 1949, the library has long offered the surrounding community a rich menu of activities. Wright began the Our Authors Study Club, devoted to studying Black History which later launched California’s first Negro History Week, later transformed into the Black History Month that is nationally recognized today. The Our Authors Study Club still meets at the Jefferson Branch Library the third Saturday of every month, often working to raise money for college scholarships for students, one of a library’s newer functions in a new century.

Read more…

Leimert Park Village Book Fair Draws 5,000+ Guests


When Terry Webb penned some 800 poems decades ago, amidst a life of drugs and crime, his publishing plans didn’t extend beyond mailing them home from prison.

“During that time I would write, and I would send them to my mother,” said Webb, a Watts resident who now works as a security guard and substance abuse counselor. “God has opened the door for me to now put this material out.”

Webb was one of more than 200 authors and artists featured at the fifth annual Leimert Park Village Book Fair on Saturday, an all-day event of literary stage performances, panel discussions, readings, workshops and vendors. More than 5,000 guests strolled through the fair among such presenters as Pulitzer Prize-winner Isabel Wilkerson and former Essence Magazine editor-in-chief Susan L. Taylor.

“We were waiting and praying to get into the book fair,” said Webb, who missed the deadline to apply for a booth and was told that he might get a spot if he showed up ready to go. “We didn’t think we’d get in.”

Hours before the fair opened, Webb waited—and prayed—with his family alongside copies of his debut book, “Poetry to God, Volume I: Lord, Please Hear the Cry,” a collection of 208 poems. Eventually, he was invited to share a booth with another author, and within an hour, he had made a sale.

“What I hope to get out of this is exposure,” said Webb. “Knowing that I’ve touched the hearts and lives of anyone who’s come in contact with this book is enough.”

In February, Webb self-published his book through Trafford Publishing and has sold about half of the 300 printed copies. It is also available electronically through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and he has three more volumes in the works.


“I think the selling part is a bonus behind it,” said Eric Brasley, an event volunteer and founder of Books of Soul, a promotional website for African American literature. “The real piece I think is just being able to share your work and interact with other people.”

Some new authors have become regulars at the book fair, such as Wilma Blair-Reed, who has attended since 2007. A retired social worker, Blair-Reed said her biggest goal is to connect with readers through life lessons.


“There’s a purpose to my writing besides entertainment,” said Blair-Reed. “Of course you have to have entertainment in there. I love to do my little page-turning things,” she said about the plot in “The Color of Hate,” a murder-mystery set in the 1960s that deals with racism, adultery and other real-life inspired challenges.

Now on her third book, Blair-Reed says all of her writing contains a simple message: “Life happens. What you get out of it, it’s typically up to you.”

Photos by Lisa Rau

OPINION: Defending ‘Our Mother’s Gardens’

Sikivu Hutchinson is the editor of and a senior fellow with the Institute for Humanist Studies. Become a fan of Blackfemlens on Facebook.

imageIn her landmark work In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens, Alice Walker wrote: “What did it mean for a black woman to be an artist in our grandmother’s time? Our great-grandmothers’ day? Did you have a genius of a great-great-grandmother who died under some ignorant and depraved white overseer’s lash? Or was her body broken and forced to bear children (who were more often than not sold away from her)—eight, ten, fifteen, twenty children—when her one joy was the thought of modeling heroic figures of rebellion?”

Many of my students do not know who Walker is. But as they listen to me read her words during a discussion of Women’s History Month they are quiet as death, contemplative, and, perhaps, newly enflamed. As students of female sacrifice, many of them know the savage politics behind her canvas. They are intimately aware of the blood price women of color must pay to be free in this so-called post-feminist society in which white male lawmakers trivialize sexual assault with dangerous tautologies like “forcible rape.”

Recently the mainstream media buzzed with news reports that a Libyan woman had reported being gang-raped to a group of foreign correspondents. A MSNBC reporter described the victim as middle aged, well-spoken and respectable (the victim was actually estimated to be in her 20s or 30s), implying that her credibility was beyond reproach.

As a “respectable,” upstanding woman, her rape would surely be an affront to her community. Preemptive reference to rape victims’ social station is a now familiar device in the rape reporting game.
Over the past few weeks, the gang rape of an 11 year old Latina girl also made headlines, eliciting controversy over the girl’s portrayal in both mainstream media and in the community where the assault occurred.

Whenever a rape case becomes high profile, the inevitable questions about the victim’s reputation, race, whereabouts, and alleged complicity in the assault are trotted out. Yet seldom is there any analysis of the sociopolitical conditions that legitimize rape and the connect- the-dots rape reporting game. And seldom is there any analysis of what gives men license to violently occupy women’s bodies. There is never any connection made between this kind of sexual terrorism and state power. Hence, these connections are especially urgent now given the unrelenting wave of anti-choice anti-abortion legislation that has swept the nation since the midterm elections.

South Dakota recently passed a law requiring pregnant women to wait three days before they made a decision about terminating their pregnancies. Under the new mandate, championed by the state’s governor, women must receive counseling from a doctor before they have an abortion. It is the only state in the nation to impose such a requirement. Other pending legislation includes requiring that women receive ultrasounds before they make a decision to terminate. Health care reform foes have also spearheaded legislation that restricts private insurers who participate in new government mandated health exchanges from providing abortion coverage.

One of the most pernicious civil liberties’ rollbacks is HR.3, the House-sponsored legislation that would give the I.R.S. the right to question women who had abortions about whether they became pregnant by rape or incest. The bill has been dubbed “Stupak on Steroids,” after Democratic Congressman Bark Stupak, who crusaded against abortion coverage under health care reform.

According to Mother Jones magazine, the bill “extends the reach of the Hyde Amendment—which bans federal funding for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is at stake—into many parts of the federal tax code. In some cases, the law would forbid using tax benefits—like credits or deductions—to pay for abortions or health insurance that covers abortion.” Women who are audited could be forced to reveal why and how they had an abortion, further ensuring Big Brother’s reign over their bodies and destinies.

There is a connection between this kind of state-sponsored terrorism and the brutal occupation of women’s bodies through rape. Yet in the U.S., the term terrorism is only used when dark-skinned racial others are the perpetrators of “strategic” geopolitical violence. Violence against women can be isolated to aberrant male predators, not the predatory terroristic human rights violations of the state.

Recently a student in my Women’s Leadership Project group expressed her vehement opposition to abortion. She argued that a woman who has sex should be prepared to accept the potential consequence of an unplanned pregnancy. Like most young women she was taught that going through with an unplanned unwanted pregnancy is a supremely moral decision.

After all, self-sacrifice under inhumane conditions is what is expected and required of women. Validation through a baby that one cannot take care of is ok, while validation through sex is not. In this regime, the consequence of pregnancy for women is a biologically determined life sentence, one that males cannot and will not be forced to serve. Women who don’t agree to this life sentence are immoral, rather than the society that does not provide for every child regardless of class or race.

Some of the most vitriolic responses I’ve ever gotten to my writing were from anti-abortion foes, primarily men, who see a white supremacist plot behind black women’s support for abortion. But it is not white supremacy that dictates black women’s allegiance to the legacy of female ancestors who could not control their own destinies.

And this is perhaps the profound power of Walker’s work, who, in search of her mother’s garden “found (her) own.” Honoring the great grandmothers whose artistry and personhood were denied symbolizes the revolutionary right of women to control their own destinies, tend their own gardens, to ensure that terrorism cannot continue to disguise itself as legitimacy and law.

Read more stories from Sikivu Hutchinson:
OPINION: Planned Parenthood and the Rape of American Women
OPINION: Heretics, Humanism, and ‘the Hood’
OPINION: American terror and the dehumanization of gay youth

Photo courtesy of Nerves Strengthened by Tea