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Gift Provides a Reprieve for Museum

Community: Donation of $20,000 saves Leimert Park Village institution from eviction. Others offer help to save civil rights-era displays.

July 27, 2002|ANTHONY McCARTNEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It took Brian Breye 30 years to build up the Museum in Black, and just a few days to pack it into more than 100 boxes when debts forced him to close.

Then came the check: $20,000 from a man he'd never met.

Gene Scott, pastor of Los Angeles University Cathedral, made the donation, saving the Leimert Park Village museum from eviction.

Property owner Edward MacDaniel said he was evicting Breye because he owed $20,000 in back rent. Breye disputes the amount, but paid the $20,000 with Scott's gift to close the matter, he said.

On Friday, he unpacked boxes and continued placing on display the museum's more than 5,000 pieces, which include numerous slave and civil rights-era artifacts.

Others rushed to help the museum once news of its closing became public. Breye said that Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn, the city's Cultural Affairs Department and numerous private and public benefactors have contacted him to offer help. Scott's spokesman, Mark Travis, also said their "commitment to the museum will be ongoing." Scott has donated to other local museums in financial trouble.

Breye has never charged admission. He now is planning a grand re-opening, hoping to have the museum back in order by next weekend. He said he hopes Hahn and his other benefactors, including Scott, will attend.

In the meantime, he repainted the walls and made upgrades.

He frequently is interrupted by people who don't know the museum closed. In the last week, he said, he turned away at least nine buses of schoolchildren.

College instructor Nenjali Jackson walked into the building Friday, shocked to find the disarray. "This is like having a major church in a black community uprooted," she said.

He agreed. But he comforted himself in something his grandmother used to say: "Out of bad comes good."

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