In February 2023, the Cultural Museum of African Art Eric Edwards Collection (CMAAEEC,) the largest collection of African Art in New York State, will be open to visitors at Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation.
Collector par excellence, Eric Edwards, broke ground for the museum on October 22. The museum includes some pieces dating back 4,000 years. Blessed with near perfect autumn weather, the camaraderie and celebratory spirit permeating Restoration Plaza at the ceremony was undeniable.
The event was hosted by Director of Event Services for Restoration Marlon Rice. He started by saying the museum is “The largest collection of African art in New York State will reside in Bedford-Stuyvesant.” This announcement was met with thunderous applause.
The numerous attendees included dignitaries, politicians, media, community activists, CMAAEEC Board members and business people like New York State Assembly member Stephanie Zimmerman; New York City Council member Chi Osse; Myrna Edwards Williams, Eric Edward’s sister, educator and one of the designers of the CMAAEEC program; Annette Robinson, former 56th District Assembly member; Artist Milton Edwards, who is also Eric’s brother; President of the Fund for the City of New York (FCNY) Dr. Lesette Nieves; Community Activist Tony Herbert; President of Medgar Evers College Patricia Ramsey;, CEO of Restoration Corporation Blondel Pinnock; Dr. Leonard Jeffries; Ralph Carter; Expressionist painter and author Danny Simmons; and architect for CMAAEEC and for the African Burial Ground Rodney Leon.
“Today we celebrate the groundbreaking investment in African culture established at a time when there are forces at work to erase our history, our culture and contributions of Africans in the Americas. CMAAEEC is being built at a time our country is in the midst of sustained backlash, Black advancement, Black history and Black people,” said Assemblymember Zimmerman who was the sponsor of the $1 Million grant that helped make CMAAEEC possible.
“Today’s groundbreaking is an act of resistance, censorship against ignorance and against racism. The CMAAEEC collection will provide our community, and those who will visit, a state of the art environment that will allow us to preserve the physical artifacts of Eric Edward’s and access them online.” I thank you all, and let the resistance began. It’s time for us to claim our space as we do in Brooklyn,” she continued.
Zimmerman also thank Assembly Speaker Carl Hastings for supporting the project with the initial investments, the Fund for the City of New York for funding the cost of the project, the management team at Restoration Plaza and Medgar Evers College.
The man of the hour, Eric Edwards, also took the stage and thanked everyone for coming out for this groundbreaking.
“I feel your vibes. I feel your spirits just like I live with the spirits of our ancestors over the last 50 years. And I share their desire to inform and educate you about your worth and meaning and your gifts to history and humankind, when we open up the doors right up here, the Cultural Museum of African Art in late February 2023. I really want to thank you,” he said.
Edwards gave a retrospect of his life and spoke of his youth with sister Myrtle and brother Milton, loving parents Eleanor and Ed, as well as his love of the community, neighborhood, friends and those ancestral people in the neighborhood who raised them.
Plus, he spoke about attending Junior High School 258 and the nurturing environment he experienced there. He mentioned that his teachers inspired him and that with studying, self-development, you can pretty much accomplish what you want.
When his father became aware that there was no place where he could find African contributions to the world, the elder Edwards took it upon himself to teach his children. Edward’s father made sure they knew they are of African descent; he made sure that we knew that Africans were major contributors to world civilization history.
“And what you learn from the artifacts of Africa which I have been blessed to be able to obtain in excess over the last 50 some years of my life is that each one of those over 3,000 artifacts that I have acquired, each one of them has a story to tell about its existence, its reason for creation, its application and what the artifact really needs, because many of them are sacred pieces, religious pieces,” Edwards said.
“They have a story to articulate if you listen carefully, and you do that study, development and hard work that is required, you learn the stories of the ancestors have a whole lot to say, and about the value systems of Africa and what made the Africans great – the stories that have been hidden over the last 400 years from all of us, not just from people of African descent, but all of us, people who are not of African descent,” he continued.
Edwards emphasized the importance of sharing these artifacts
“I truly firmly believe when some of that is accepted into public mindset, it will lift the public over time just like it lifted myself, my brother and sister.”
Throughout the ceremony masterful drumming was provided by Eric Frazier and Former child star Ralph Carter also performed.
To donate to the Cultural Museum of African Art and/or get more information; visit CMAAEEC.ORG. You can also email EddieGaj22@gmail.com or call 646-388-4364.