Historic Dabls MBAD African Bead Museum Set for Demolition Tuesday Morning, Community Rallies to Preserve Cultural Landmark

Credit: Dabls MBAD African Bead Museum

(Note: Story Updated Tuesday, July 9th, 2024, 12:16 pm)

On Tuesday morning, the iconic Dabls MBAD African Bead Museum, a cornerstone of Detroit’s cultural heritage, faced imminent demolition. However, a powerful call to action from community activist and musical artist Bryce Detroit’s Instagram post has sparked a wave of support, halting the destruction of this beloved landmark and its rich history—at least for now.

“I’m feeling powerful and feeling the last 30 hours of emotional labor and activism. I’m feeling the energy of collective support and solidarity, for sure. I’m also choosing to affirm that this is a moment that represents the course, and the nature, of the trajectory for Black Detroit,” Bryce said.

Bryce said Mary Sheffield, President of the City of Detroit City Council, was partly responsible for this effort to save the Dabls MBAD African Bead Museum.

“President Mary Sheffield stepped up as an agent for her district. The way that she took our story directly from us and made sure that that was relayed as wholly and comprehensively as possible to get us to effect a positive outcome, which was the stay on demolition,” Bryce said.

Olayami Dabls, 2022 Kresge Arts Fellow and owner of 6559 Grand River Ave, for over 25 years, recently raised over “$200,000 for Phase 1 renovations, the MBAD African Bead Museum is launching its Phase 2 fundraising campaign”, according to an active gofundme page, raising money for the next steps of phase 2 currently has raised over $4,800.00.

Dabls mentioned that the urgency of the demolition forced the community to come together and halt the process within just two days.

“There are enough people in the community who understand the symbolic value of this building and are coming together to fight off a very powerful arm in the city; this is what this building does,” Dabls said.

Last Monday, Dabls MBAD African Bead Museum was blocked off by orange barrels and yellow tape. Today, a fence was placed around the property, and trees were also being cut down in preparation for the demolition.

Dabls expressed his confusion over the rapid pace at which the City of Detroit proceeded with the demolition process.

“I don’t understand it, but I do know people are very sensitive to changes when they begin to occur. So, if you look at this facility (points to the back of the property), it is not a typical development. And it only appeals to a certain people. So that alone can frighten people,” Dabls said.

Caption: Demolish Notice from City of Detroit

After Bryce Detroit’s recent post on Instagram, a wave of support surged across various social media platforms. Those supporters showed up to stop the demolition and began to peacefully gather at 8:30 am this morning.

“There is an act of development, and Dabls has a plan, and they’re working the plan. This is a grassroots effort, so it moves at a different pace,” Kodjo Anpu Nwigwe Onifonboyede (Anubis), a community supporter, said.

Community supporters are asking why the demolition order from the City of Detroit is occurring so swiftly, as the “Grand River Alley” is currently underway behind it.

According to the City of Detroit,  “The Grand River Alley runs from Vinewood St to Taft St between Grand River Ave and I-94, this commercial alley borders one of the city’s most iconic arts installations, the DABLS Bead Museum, and arts garden.”

Other community concerns are that the building’s artwork is considered copywritten work once the owner has used creative expression on the property.

Byrce Detroit wrote on Instagram, “From a copyright standpoint, once Dabls affixed his creative expression to the tangible medium of his own brick walls (located at 6559 Grand River), then those walls became a canvas, and that exterior forever rendered an immensely valuable work of art.”

“This is a development project. This is the developer’s grassroots development story. This is not a story about an old black man neglecting his things. And now there’s some emergency response to save his neglected property,” Bryce said.

This is a developing story. The Michigan Chronicle will update it as more information becomes available. 


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