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Livingstone looks to preserve, expand history with Heritage Hall renovation

Plans are underway to transform Heritage Hall, which is on Livingstone College’s campus and houses documents and memorabilia from the institution, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and Hood Theological Seminary, into a grand facility for genealogical and academic research that will be used by people from throughout the United States.
Expanding the facility will cost several million dollars, and for the next four days a series of activities will be held at Livingstone in hopes of raising $30,000 in seed money to get the ball rolling on the ambitious project that has been years in the making.
“This is a real historic and significant movement with the church, the college and the seminary coming together,” said Dr. Yvonne Tracey, chairwoman of the Walls Advisory Board’s finance committee. “We’re trying to raise money for architectural drawings, a foundation and legal support … because we’re interested in preserving history and artifacts, not only for the church but also for the African-American Diaspora. We’re trying to offer something for everyone because we want people of all ages to enjoy the events and contribute to this extremely worthwhile cause.”
Tracey, who has spearheaded planning for the four-day extravaganza, said she and others involved hope the events will be heavily attended, particularly by those who will benefit directly from Heritage Hall once its doors are reopened.
“People who want to learn more about Livingstone College, the AME Zion Church or Hood Theological Seminary shouldn’t have to go any further than Monroe Street to accomplish that,” said Tracey, a 1966 Livingstone graduate. “Heritage Hall is a treasure that should be appreciated, preserved and renovated, but we cannot do that without adequate funds. So my hope, and that of others working to bring back Heritage Hall, is that Salisbury residents and people from throughout Rowan and surrounding counties will come to some of the events and enjoy themselves while contributing to posterity.”
The lineup of events includes: a Worship Service of Hope and Remembrance at 7 p.m. tonight in Tubman Little Theater, featuring Bishop Darryl B. Starnes, Sr., a 1979 Livingstone Graduate who also graduated from Hood Theological Seminary; an overview and update on the vision for Heritage Hall and an information session on Alzheimer’s at 2 p.m. Friday in Varick Auditorium; a 3K Campus Walk/Run, beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday (registration begins at 8:15 a.m. at The Walls Center on Old Plank Road) and a play titled “Forget Me Not” at 5 p.m. on Sunday.
“Forget Me Not,” a gospel musical that addresses Alzheimer’s, was written by Garrett Davis, a theater arts professor at Winston-Salem State University and a founding member of the National Alzheimer’s Association. Play tickets are $25 for general admission and $50 for patrons, which includes admission to a reception immediately following the play. Registration for the 3K run is $10 for people 50 and over and 15 and under and $15 for people ages 16 to 49. Seniors (ages 50 and up) who can’t afford to pay $10 are asked to make a donation; and there’s no entry fee for Livingstone College student with valid student IDs.
Dr. William McKenith, chairman of the Walls Advisory Board, said he hopes the community supports the fundraising efforts.
“The Walls Advisory Board is calling on Zionites, Livingstone and Hood Theological Seminary communities to come together to make the transformation of Heritage Hall into an Education Museum and Archive Center a reality,” McKenith said. “I’m so thankful to the many people and institutions that have already shown support for our efforts. This project is vitally important because we need to tell our own stories rather than having someone else tell them for us.”
Earl Brown, Jr., a finance committee member who is in charge of the 3K walk/run, is a former Peace Corps worker and administrator who has traveled extensively in Africa, South America and South Asia. He knows firsthand the importance of maintaining historical archives.
“I’m sensitive to culture and history and the importance of it,” Brown said. “Over the years I’ve collected historical documents that I’ll pass on to my descendants. The information that has been amassed at Heritage Hall contains the histories of Livingstone, the AME Zion Church and Hood Theological Seminary, and it must be preserved and enhanced.”
McKenith said the renovation and expansion of Heritage Hall is overdue.
“We’ve been talking about doing this as a church for years, and now the time has come to do it,” he said. “It’s important to note that Dr. Jenkins has really been inspirational in the formation of the Walls Advisory board and has provided that same inspiration with his vision of transforming Heritage Hall. Without his leadership and guidance, we wouldn’t be able to even go further with development.”
Jenkins said the college is committed to doing everything it can to ensure Heritage Hall is maximized to its full potential.
“It’s been said that those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it,” Jenkins said. “There’s no question we must preserve all records and documents that tell our story and highlight the contributions made by Livingstone College, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and Hood Theological Seminary. I’m confident that the collaboration between all three entities will eventually result in success and one day this campus will be home to the one of the finest historical museums in the nation.”

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