North Family with Charles Barnes

In an effort to spur community support and energize fundraising for a planned African American Cultural Center, Attorney Joe North and his family including his wife Benita, son, Joe North Jr., daughter, Kem Longo, and Joe’s father, James North, presented a check for $100,000 to the Lee County Black History Society on March 15 at the Williams Academy Black History Museum at Roberto Clemente Park in Fort Myers.

“Over the years, this community has supported me in ways I could not even have imagined,” North said. “My wife and I discussed what we could do to give back to the community that has given us so much, and our thoughts gravitated naturally to the Black History Society. They are doing what we really need to be doing, preserving our history. Black history is our history; the history of the entire community. We are an important piece of the fabric of this community.”

The Lee County Black History Society, which maintains the Black History Museum in the former Williams Academy, is working with the City of Fort Myers to plan a $22-million, three-story African American Cultural Center in Clemente Park, envisioned to be home to concerts, art exhibits and even recording studios that will help spur development in the Dunbar area.

“We’ve got a community leader, born and raised here, that stepped up to commit to this organization and the future, and that’s amazing,” said Charles Barnes, chairperson of the organization. “We are so thankful, and it’s a great day for the Black History Society.”

The African American Cultural Center project is in Phase 1, which includes hiring staff and fundraising. Phase 2, expected to be completed in the next two years, will include construction of an amphitheater and basketball court. Phase 3, in the next three to four years, will be construction of the Cultural Center.

Fort Myers City council member Teresa Watkins-Brown said the city has already committed $11 million for the project, and the North donation will help hire staff to get the project underway. “It’s created excitement that all of this is going to be a reality soon,” she said.

To learn more about the future African American Cultural Center, or to make a donation in support of the project CLICK HERE

This story was featured: