I would like to thank all of you who donated to WARN's first effort to reclaim some of the slavery artifacts which are now being offered as "collectibles" on Ebay. I would also like to thank the folks at the Daily Kos, as well as the kind people from the Jim Crow Museum, who reached out to me with guidance and advice.
Collecting these objects remains a very worthy effort. However, it is also far more complicated than I first imagined when I was struck by visions of playing black Indiana Jones.
In all, there is a great project here, and one that deserves a good deal of planning and infrastructure. As I learned by talking to people with more expertise than I have regarding these matters, there are many fake and replica slave artifacts on the market. As a practical matter, it is going to be difficult to authenticate objects purchased via Ebay. I do not want your donations to subsidize the very disrespect for our honored dead which sparked your individual acts of generosity. The irony would be priceless: we get some money together to obtain some of these objects and we end up rewarding the very folks who are disrespecting the Black Freedom Struggle and Maafa. The thought was very upsetting to me.
This does not mean that I am going to cease my efforts to reclaim these objects and give them a proper home. I have a friend who works at the Smithsonian and I am going to ask her for some guidance on what resources are available to authenticate slavery artifacts. I also have a colleague who has experience with grants and foundation work. Once we put together the right mix of people, and sketch out a mission statement for a proposed organization, then we can do this on the scale it deserves.
In lieu of sending your money off to a stranger on Ebay, I am going to donate what we collected to a pet related charity. I am torn between donating our funds to a large and established group like the North Shore Animal League or a smaller fund that helps low income people provide emergency medical care to their animal family members. There are also quite a few wonderful pet sanctuaries that specialize in providing forever homes to our animal friends who are "unadoptable" for whatever reasons. If you personally know of a program that I should consider donating to, please email me their info.
On a related matter, the film and culture website Shadow and Act has a great feature essay which offers suggestions and guidance about using Kickstarter to raise money that could be of interest to some of you (I wish I had read it a few months ago).
As I learned from this experiment, asking folks for money--and doing it successfully--requires quite a bit of time, effort, and planning.