Former Assembly Women Raising Funds For Inland Empire Black History Archive
SAN BERNARDINO >> Wilmer Amina Carter remembers growing up in western Mississippi and hearing stories about Native American survival from her grandfather, a Choctaw Indian.
The former assemblywoman has carried those stories with her throughout her life.
Now she wants to preserve stories of black history related to the Inland Empire.
“I’ve saved every piece of paper, every article, everything,” the Rialto woman said.
Carter aims to establish an online archive of Inland Empire black history, told through photographs, newspapers and interviews with descendants of black people who shaped San Bernardino and the surrounding area.
It’s an idea she’s had for many years, but it didn’t come to fruition until Cal State San Bernardino library Dean Cesar Caballero suggested she turn her collection into an archive everyone can access.
She plans to work with educators to organize and gather more material for the project.
But that’s going to take time and money.
She has already drafted a federal grant for the project and is holding a fundraiser Saturday at the National Orange Show.
The project has already attracted some attention in the academic world.
Daniel Walker, a historian who works at El Camino College and the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture, said such an archive will expand knowledge of the black experience. Students seeking sources on particular black figures may only find their connections to larger cities.
Now they’ll be able to do research on subjects such as trends, religion, churches and suburbanization related to the Inland Empire.
“It’s long overdue and it has merit and legs,” Walker said.
Archiving is a subject Walker is familiar with and passionate about. He’s already established numerous archives at USC on subjects such as the Pentecostal movement and gospel music.
Carter has volunteers who are already searching for people in the community whose relatives were key figures in Inland Empire black history.
She’s looking for relatives of Anne Shirrells, a San Bernardino child mentor who has a Westside park named after her.
“I’ve heard that one of her grandchildren lives here,” Carter said.
She also mentioned Talmage Hughes, one of the area’s first black real estate agents who sold homes to black families in San Bernardino. And she’s also looking for descendants of Bob Parker, a black businessman who owned a shoe store, a telemarketing organization and Church’s Chicken restaurants on San Bernardino’s Westside.
And that’s just a small sampling of people whose histories she hopes to gather. She wants the project to benefit children for years to come.
“Now we have the technology, and our children won’t know our history unless we archive it,” she said.
To participate or donate to the project, call Carter at 909-820-4406.