New international museum set to tell a largely untold part of history

David Agnew (second from left), Mayor Riley (third from left), Unity Executive Sponsor Gus Wong (center), Actor Evie McGee-Colbert (fourth from right) and Kenrick Fraser (third from right) with members of the Macquarie Unity Committee at the New York fundraising event.

10 December 2018

It is a little-known fact that nearly half of the enslaved African people brought to the United States arrived at a single point in Charleston, South Carolina. A new museum is set to tell this largely untold story.

In 2020, the International African American Museum (IAAM) will open its doors in Charleston after an 18-year struggle to raise the necessary funding. Macquarie staff across the Americas are proudly supporting these efforts through recent fundraising events.

David Agnew, from Macquarie’s New York office, was working for Charleston, South Carolina Mayor Joe Riley Mayor in 2000 when the Mayor proposed creating the museum as one of his Millennium projects.

Mayor Riley served for forty years as Mayor of Charleston and was a prominent advocate of civil rights and racial progress throughout his career, dating back to his time as a young political leader in the 1960s and 1970s.

“For many, Charleston has a cultural significance similar to Ellis Island, but it largely unknown across America and around the world. This museum will help to change that,” says David.

When David joined Macquarie, he wanted to find out how Macquarie could help support the cause. He spoke with Kenrick Fraser from the Macquarie Group Foundation who also serves on the Unity employee network group; which celebrates the array of cultural backgrounds across society and encourages diversity, equity and inclusion within Macquarie.

“When David told me about the museum, I thought it was such a culturally significant story in history and asked the Unity group to support it,” says Kenrick.

“They responded positively and started planning fundraising events across the Americas during Macquarie’s annual Foundation Week.”

Staff in the New York office held a well-attended event at which special guest Mayor Joe Riley and Actress Evie McGee-Colbert spoke about the cultural significance of the museum.

Heather Stelmack, a Unity member from Macquarie’s Jacksonville office, also organised an event in the Jacksonville office, which featured the Director of Education and Engagement from IAAM, Brenda Tindal. Brenda shared the importance of the museum and took the audience back to the 1800s by reciting the famous ‘Ain’t I a Women’ speech by Sojouner Truth.

“Hearing directly from Brenda was very moving. It was a great opportunity to connect with the story, and there was a lot of interest in it,” says Anthony Glenn who heads up Macquarie’s Jacksonville office.

“Our contribution to this important cause demonstrates to our African American employees that we care about their history and we want to support this initiative.”

Financial support has been vital in ensuring the museum came to life.

“18 years in the making, the museum will open due to support from many people across America. I’m so proud that, with Macquarie Group Foundation matching, Macquarie has helped raise $USD100,000 for the museum,” says David Agnew.

Commitment to a representative workforce

Across the Americas, Macquarie focuses on ensuring the workforce is representative of the diverse backgrounds of American people. In the Jacksonville office, staff currently hail from 24 countries, speaking 11 languages, but there’s more to do. The team is proactively working to ensure graduate and intern programmes are targeting underrepresented young people.

“We pride ourselves on being a diverse office that is truly representative of the American people, but we recognise that we need to do more to ensure we continue to have a pipeline of talented people from diverse backgrounds coming through,” says Anthony Glenn.

In New York, the Macquarie Group Foundation is supporting the Double Discovery Center at Columbia College which works with low-income and first-generation college-bound Manhattan area youth to ensure high school graduation, college enrolment, and completion.

“This is one of the outstanding non-profit organisations we’re supporting as we promote college access, success and career attainment for underrepresented youth,” says Kenrick Fraser.