Thursday, August 13, 2020
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CSU Dominguez Hills in Talks to House the Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum

By Dennis J. Freeman, Reporter

Cal State University Dominguez Hills is in negotiations to house the Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum collection — more than 2 million historical artifacts, rare books, photographs, and other types of memorabilia about the African American experience in this country.

After more than a decade in a Los Angeles County facility, occupants of the Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum vacated that property for good on July 31.  The end goal for the Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum is to be housed in a permanent location, said Lloyd Clayton, executive director and son of the founder.

Clayton stated that West Los Angeles Community College has proposed putting up the collection on a two-year temporary basis, though that could not be confirmed.

That leaves Cal State University Dominguez Hills. “As far as a permanent location, we haven’t come to that conclusion yet because my family, including my mother and brother, Avery, want Mayme Clayton to have its own building with her name branded on the top of the building,” Clayton said. “She gave 45 years of her entire life and every dollar towards this collection. This collection wouldn’t exist if she didn’t sacrifice her money to save African American history.”

This stretch of uncertainty has not been easy for Clayton. From the county’s perspective, the building was simply uninhabitable for such a collection to remain where it was.

“The county has been very supportive to protect and preserve the collection,” the county representative said.

The tug of war between the Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum and the building it operated under the County of Los Angeles jurisdiction is officially over. For the past 13 years, the esteemed library and museum that housed a vast collection of African American artifacts, was a cultural center point in the Culver City community.

“It seems like it had a great impact on Culver City,” Clayton said. “We’ve had many of the schools … they come here every year for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so the kids would take the tour, very attentive and very interested because they are hearing things and seeing things that are not in their library. So, they’re getting another perspective of what African Americans have contributed in this country.”

That part of the city’s history is now a thing of the past as the library and museum said good-bye to its Culver City home on Culver Boulevard. According to Clayton, the library and museum were basically given the boot by the county. The fight to overturn the eviction notice became nothing more than fruitless exercise and hard to swallow, he said.

“They are not going to renew our lease,” Clayton said. “It’s a little sad to leave this facility because before my mother died, she actually came into the building, and I can remember her expression and how happy she was … I wished that it could have worked. I wish that (Los Angeles County Supervisor) Mark Ridley-Thomas could have worked with us more to give us a building that is air-controlled. It would have been a great legacy for him, too.”

When it comes to legacy, Mayme A. Clayton built one that will last for a very, very long time. For over four decades, Mayme A. Clayton collected memorabilia that captured the essence of the African American experience via books, photographs, and film. Mayme A. Clayton passed away in 2006, leaving sons Avery and Lloyd to oversee her collection.

Lloyd Clayton feels the library and museum have gotten a raw deal. He is concerned that the hard work his mother and others put into making the library and museum a nestle that one the public could enjoy might be harmed because of the move.

The county sees the dispute in a different light. A representative claims that the lease for the property expired after one year but the individual added the county remained supportive. So, to the county, for the past 12 years, the Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum have basically operated  rent-free.

It has been reported that the monthly rent for where Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum occupied cost an estimated $93,000 a month. The dispute between the county and those representing the library and museum is somewhat confusing.

The original agreement between the county and the museum and library was authorized by former Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke. Lloyd Clayton says Brathwaite Burke negotiated a $1 per year arrangement with the library and museum.

A proposed partnership between the county and the library and museum fizzled out because the library would not hold its bargain when it came to fundraising efforts, according to the county representative.

The county, through this representative, argues that besides not paying rent for the past 12 years, the facility in which the Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum has dwelt, is no longer suitable for housing its content, which includes films, audio, books and other artifacts.

“It was meant to be a temporary fix,” the county representative said it relates to the agreed one-year lease agreement. “It was not meant to be a permanent home.”

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