Fulbright Equity: Celebrating the Founding Black Families of America – Dr. Barbara Paca – Ireland 1996

This is a story about how being a Fulbright changes your life and the world around you: for the better. Nearly thirty years later after being a postdoc Fulbrighter in the Republic of Ireland (during the period of peace negotiations), I reflect upon lessons learned such as how that time taught me important lessons about giving back and establishing an intergenerational conversation among varying backgrounds and religious beliefs. I am influenced by that experience, and the writings of Frederick Douglass, who noted connections between the oppression of the Irish and enslaved persons whom he had grown up with on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Two populations whose journey is about overcoming.

This awareness has led to the creation of the Water’s Edge Museum in Oxford, Maryland. The oldest port on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Oxford is the only documented Middle Passage stop on the Eastern Shore of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. The Water’s Edge Museum is entirely funded by my company “Preservation Green” and run entirely by a team of highly accomplished volunteers. Advisory Committee members include Maryland’s First Lady Yumi Hogan, Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford, Comptroller Peter Franchot, Secretary of State John C. Wobensmith, and most importantly, many members of Founding Black Families. The Water’s Edge proudly presents black farmer, professional sailmakers, military leaders, musicians, watermen, and crab pickers–The Founding Black Families of America who harnessed knowledge and power, and placed it firmly and confidently into the hands of their descendants. The Museum seeks to empower young people of today to find their place in history and identify their own positive and unique voice when facing contemporary issues and challenges, and to see how people of color on Maryland’s Eastern Shore lived and how their lives mattered.

Opening on February 1, 2021 in honor of Black History Month, the museum has already been honored with an official US Congressional Citation from Senator Chris Van Hollen and has also been awarded Black History Month Service and Volunteer award from Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.

What will the legacy of your Fulbright lead to?

Dr. Barbara Paca – Fulbright to Ireland 1996

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