The Lee County Black History Society’s “Illuminate the Past, Ignite the Future” Museum After Dark event on Friday, Sept. 8, at the Williams Academy Black History Museum marked the Society’s inaugural fundraiser for the $20 million African American Cultural Center’s capital campaign.

“The event not only celebrated the remarkable history and contributions of the African- American community but also marked a pivotal moment in the Society’s journey toward the establishment of the African American Cultural Center,” said the organization’s first full-time staff member, Executive Director Autumn Watkins Holloway, who was introduced to the community at the event.

“Funds raised during this unforgettable evening will play a significant role in bringing this cultural hub to life, fostering education, awareness and unity in the community. I am so grateful to the Society’s faithful and dedicated board members, including Chairman Charles Barnes, Vice Chairman Lee Ford, Co-Treasurers Harriet Myers and Shirley Burns, Secretary Herbia Green, Fort Myers Councilwoman Teresa Watkins-Brown, Johnny Ervin and Valerie Ervin, as well as the City of Fort Myers and the beloved community of Dunbar for their unwavering support.”

The event drew more than 100 attendees, with a diverse and enthusiastic crowd coming together in cocktail attire to celebrate African-American heritage and contribute to the realization of the African American Cultural Center.

The evening also provided an opportunity to pay tribute to Janice Cass, the visionary founder of the Williams Academy Black History Museum, as well as introduce the Society’s part-time staff member, Programs and Events Coordinator Melinda Golden.

The program included dedication of a corridor within the museum to Joe and Benita North

in recognition of their extraordinary financial contributions to both the organization and the community. Attendees included Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson, who expressed his wholehearted endorsement for the establishment of the African American Cultural Center.

At the event, the Museum’s fall exhibits, “Bridging Generations through Local Art and Music,” “50 Years of Hip Hop: A Fusion of Music, Artist, and History,” “Anderson Avenue Economic Renaissance: Honoring History, Igniting Progress,” and “Remembering the Past and Reimagining the Future: MLK Corridor’s Revival” were unveiled. Live performances during tours brought these exhibits to life. Culinary delights for the evening were provided by Southern Charm Bistro.