ABHM Celebrates Dr. Cameron’s 100th Birthday with Racial Reconciliation Gathering


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Dr. James Cameron in the former ABHM facility.

On Sunday, February 23, 2014, more than one hundred Milwaukeeans and a dozen others from around the country gathered at Centennial Hall to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. James Cameron, ABHM’s founder, on what would have been his 100th birthday. Dr. Cameron passed away in 2006, so now the Dr. James Cameron Legacy Foundation carries on his work. The theme of the celebration, A Gathering for Racial Repair and Reconciliation, honored Dr. Cameron’s charge to “forgive, but never forget.” He believed that to move forward toward a racially reconciled society, we must look back and honestly examine our country’s past. Just as Dr. Cameron fought for and won a state pardon for a crime he did not commit, he believed that justice for African Americans must be pursued.

Program of 100th Birthday Celebration
Program of 100th Birthday Celebration

The Gathering’s program opened with Reggie Jackson, ABHM’s Head Griot, who gave attendees a brief tour of ABHM’s virtual museum and spoke of the museum’s twenty-five year history and future plans. Three elected officials – Congresswoman Gwen Moore, County Supervisor Khalif Rainey, and Alderwoman Milele Coggs – each spoke about the significance of ABHM and Dr. Cameron’s legacy to Milwaukee and the world.

Dr. Robert Smith, the museum’s Resident Historian, then spoke about the founder’s role as a scholar-activist, the sociopolitical influences that shaped his life, and his essays on historical and contemporary topics.

Featured speakers Sharon Morgan and Tom DeWolf, authors of Gather At The Table: The Healing Journey of a Daughter of Slavery and a Son of the Slave Trade, presented a multimedia overview of their journey and the STAR model of healing from trauma resulting from generations of slavery followed by institutionalized racism.

Participants engaged in facilitated small group dialog.
Participants engaged in facilitated small group dialog.

Participants then engaged in facilitated small group dialogue about their visions concerning a racial repair and reconciliation process for Milwaukee, using the “Caring Circle” method for respectful attention and trust-building. The program ended with cake, candles, and singing “Happy Birthday” together for Dr. Cameron, followed by a book signing.

DocUWM‘s film students and graduates recorded the entire event, which, once edited into a documentary film, will be made available online on this website.

The Gathering was made possible through the collaboration of ABHM with the Milwaukee Public Library and UWM’s Cultures and Communities Program and with the generous funding from the Wisconsin Humanities Council. The Gathering was also cosponsored by: Alverno College, Milwaukee Urban League, Newaukee, Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, and the Young Adult Committee of the NAACP–Milwaukee.

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