Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum looking for a new home

By Dennis J. Freeman

City Editor

The tug-o-war between the Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum and the County of Los Angeles is officially over. Done. Wrapped up. Time to move on. 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," Lloyd Clayton said. "We've had many of the schools...they come here every year for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration, 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 its good-bye to its Culver City home on Overland Avenue on July 31. According to Clayton, the son of the founder, Mayme A. Clayton, the library and museum was basically given the boot from the county.

Lloyd Clayton said the library and museum was hit with an eviction notice last fall. 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."

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 county has wronged the memories and hard work his mother and others put into making the library and museum a nestle that one the public could enjoy. The county sees its another way. A representative for the County of Los Angeles claims that the lease for the property where the Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum expired after one year.

So, to the county, for the past 12 years, the Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum have basically operated as squatters, going rent free for the last dozen years.

"They haven't paid rent in years," the source said. "The county has been supportive to protect and preserve the collection, but the collection hasn't even been accessible to the public. The county owns the facility."

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 and given the green light by former Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke who worked with the late Culver City Mayor Albert Vera on the project. Lloyd Clayton says Brathwaite Burke negotiated a $1 per year arrangement with the library and museum.

The county disputes that claim and is sticking to its talking point about the library and museum not living up to its end when it came down to working things out. 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 considered partnering with them, but Mayme Clayton (Library & Museum) didn't follow with fundraising."

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 to housing its content, which includes films, audio, books and other historical artifacts.

"It was meant to be a temporary fix," the county representative said it relates to the agreed one-year lease agreement between the county and the library and museum. "It was not meant to be a permanent home."

For supporters of the museum, there is hope that the nearly 2 million collection of historical artifacts will not just disappear into the night without a trace. An imminent deal with a local university (rumored to be Cal State Dominguez Hills) for complete housing of the works is reportedly near. Clayton also stated that West Los Angeles Community College has proposed putting up the collection on a two-year temporary basis.

"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."


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