Local elected officials, clergy, educators and activists showed up in force Monday afternoon at the site of a former black-owned barbershop for the unveiling of a sign indicating that it will one day be the home of the African American Museum of the East End.
“Before this, things were pretty much up in the air,” said museum co-founder in a recent interview. “But now, we’re pretty much saying, ‘This thing is going to happen.’”
The former barber shop and beauty salon was recently designated a historic site by both Southampton Village and Southampton Town, giving the museum the opportunity to apply for grants to restore the building and install virtual exhibits, Cannon said. With such a small space to work with, most exhibitions will likely be digital, on computers and television screens, and the museum will also provide a meeting place, she said.
She started the museum with her mother, Gloria Cannon, and colleague Brenda Simmons.
The younger Cannon is a Southampton Village trustee and Simmons is assistant to village Mayor Mark Epley.
Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman read a county proclamation celebrating the museum and he surprised Simmons by presenting her with a second proclamation, recognizing her as a Woman of Distinction for his legislative district, which includes the entire South Fork.
The town of Southampton acquired the site using Community Preservation Funds in 2006 from Randy Conquest of Randy’s Barbershop, with the intention of turning it into a museum.
Cannon said it was her mother who first came up with the idea, when they were pondering how they could preserve a building that housed one of the only black-owned businesses in the village.
“A lot of good history came out of that area and that era back then,” she said. “The fact that it would be sold or possibly demolished was a concern.”
The is no target opening date for the museum, Cannon said. Citing the years it took for the to break ground in Water Mill for its new facility and the delays it faced, she said, “It’s going to take us some time.”
In the meantime, AAMEE will continue to host programs around the village. “Its not like we’re waiting for it to open,” Cannon said. “We’ve been doing things from the outset.”
AAMEE has hosted a black film festival, poetry readings and a “Winter Crystal Ball” dance.