Mayme’s Garage

MORE SAD news. Avery Clayton, son of Mayme Clayton – founder of the Western States Black Research and Education Center, passed away yesterday — Thanksgiving Day. His mother housed three centuries of black literature, movies, music and other essential miscellany in a leaky garage, behind her modest home in Southwest L.A. What I held in my hands made the journey palpable — A Phillis Wheatley chapbook, crumbling Tin Pan Alley sheet music, heavy, brittle 78s. It was much more than sifting through memories; it was time travel, like eavesdropping on circling conversations above. I’d first met Clayton back when I was a reporter at the L.A. Weekly and did a small piece on her in the old Local Heroes column. Once at the L.A. Times, I revisited her and her collection in 2002. After decades of planning, fundraisers, nearly-closed deals, Avery was able to secure a spacious spot in Culver City in an old civic building along Overland Avenue. His mother passed away without witnessing the ribbon-cutting and now Avery won’t be here for the opening. I’d just received an email from him, not a month ago, saying that he wanted to meet, that he had a lot of new information to share, that we’d come a long way.


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