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African Odyssey

"I view this library as a bridge," Broward County Library Director Samuel F. Morrison says of the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center, "a bridge from the past across time and cultures and an introduction to a world in which knowledge is the true power."

The facility, which opens its doors to the public this Saturday, is only the third such library in the United States, joining those in New York City and Atlanta. At its heart is a collection of 75,000 books, artifacts, and documents depicting the rich history and culture of persons of African descent.

The library's treasures include the Alex Haley Collection of eight unfinished manuscripts; the Fisk University Collection of slave narratives offering firsthand accounts of slave life; the Sixto Campano Sheet Music Collection documenting the history of African-Americans in the theater; the Council of Elders Collection of videotaped oral interviews with Broward County pioneers; and the Stereoscopic Cards and Viewers Collection depicting African-American life in South Florida at the turn of the 20th Century.

The dedication ceremonies take place at 10 a.m. at Rev. Samuel Delevoe Park, adjacent to the library. News reporter Danielle Knox of WFOR-TV (Channel 4) serves as mistress of ceremonies, and Lerone Bennett Jr., executive editor of Ebony magazine, is keynote speaker. Virtuoso Street, the Florida Memorial College Choir and Steel Pan Drums, and the Florida Youth Orchestra String Quartet provide the music.

One of the most important collections of 20th-century African-American art, "Celebration and Vision: The Hewitt Collection of African-American Art," opens with the library. It contains 55 works by 20 artists and includes such renowned paintings as "Morning Ritual" by Romare Bearden, "Woman in a Blue Coat" by Ernest Crichlow, and "Easter" by Jonathan Green. Green, who lives in Naples, will be on hand for the opening of both the library and the art exhibit. The latter runs through December 13.

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Tomi Curtis

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