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'The Schomburg belongs to Harlem,' Rangel says

Herb Boyd | 4/12/2011, 5:32 p.m.

A reporter wasn't able to get his question in during a recent teleconference held by Congressman Charles Rangel, but he was fortunate to have his own one-on-one when the congressman called him back.

After declaring that BP will pay far more than the liability cap of $75 million imposed by Congress on the oil spill and devastation, Rangel told the reporter that the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture "must be preserved."

He was concerned to learn that rumors were once more circulating in Harlem about the threatened dismantling of the community treasure.

"It's all we've got," he declared. "They've taken so much of our history and culture, but this is ours and we must fight to keep it."

It was a few years ago when similar rumors about the Schomburg surfaced, mainly surrounding the possibility of Howard Dodson, the chief curator's imminent retirement. This time Dodson, 70, has made it clear that he will step down in February.

"Howard Dodson, as head of the Schomburg, is the custodian of one of the greatest institutions in our community," Rangel recently told blackamericanweb.com. "He plays an even more important role in preserving and protecting our story as we lived it and as we told it ourselves. His contributions are priceless."

As for the current situation, Rangel was adamant about the Schomburg remaining in Harlem. "It must not become a satellite in the New York Public Library system," he asserted. "I met with the Schomburg's board members in the past, and I made it clear where I stood on the matter. The Schomburg Center belongs in Harlem, and I'm prepared to fight to keep it that way."

When told of the committee formed to save the Schomburg, Rangel promised his support.

"Let them know that whenever they need me, just let me know and I'll be there. If there's any truth to it, I'm glad to know this matter is being brought to light. We don't need any secret deals made in the middle of the night about this precious institution."