Contact: Joe Vargo, Perris Public Information Officer
Phone: 951-956-2120
jvargo@cityofperris.org

Fundraiser to Aid Dora Nelson African American Art
and History Museum

Alberta Mable Kearney, 92, founder of the Dora Nelson African-American Art and History Museum in Perris, attended the recent fund-raiser to make roof repairs
Alberta Mable Kearney, 92, founder of the Dora Nelson African-American Art and History Museum in Perris, attended the recent fund-raiser to make roof repairs.

Friends of the Dora Nelson African American Art and History Museum attended a fundraiser to help repair major damage to the site named after a free slave who helped established the first black church in Perris.

Strong winds severely tore off part of the roof on the Nelson museum in October, followed by rains that caused further damage.

Perris Planning Commissioner Dave Stuart stepped forward to facilitate temporary repairs but the museum on East Seventh Street near Downtown Perris needs more than $10,000 to replace the roof.

More than 90 museum supporters attended the fund-raiser at the Perris Valley Historical and Museum Association Depot Building on West Fourth Street. “What a wonderful gesture of love and friendship,” said Lovella Singer, executive director of the Nelson Museum.

“Our museum is pretty badly damaged. Thank you all for coming out to support our renovation efforts. Give yourself a hug and a pat on the back.” Singer said that in addition to the roof repairs, the Dora Nelson museum is hoping to expand and add to its collection of oral histories, property records, deeds and mementos from African-Americans who lived in the Perris Valley since the 1880s and contributed to its culture, economic activity and prosperity.

Lovella Singer, executive director of the Dora Nelson African-American Art and History Museum, addresses the crowd at the Feb. 23 fund-raiser.
Lovella Singer, executive director of the Dora Nelson African-American Art and History Museum, addresses the crowd at the Feb. 23 fund-raiser.

She said the museum has been chosen to host the 2016 convention of the African-American Museum Association. The museum is named after Dora Nelson, a former slave who came to Perris in 1920. A religious woman, Nelson sought out a church to attend, eventually affiliating herself with the City’s Congregational Church. As other African-Americans moved to the Perris Valley, Nelson organized prayer meetings in her home. Several years later, she helped form the City’s initial black congregation, the First Baptist Church of Perris, which continues to this day. Nelson died about 1930.

Decades later, Singer’s parents—Alberta Mable Kearney and Charles William Kearney—moved to Nelson’s home on East Seventh Street, which by them had become little more than a shack. The family tore down the residence about 1964, never realizing its historical significance. Upset at the loss of history, the couple dedicated their lives to remembering Nelson and her contributions with the museum that now bears her name.

The museum opened in 1997. Charles Kearney died last year at 91. Alberta Mable Kearney, 92, was among those who attended the Feb. 23 fundraiser. Perris Mayor Daryl Busch and City Councilwoman Rita Rogers represented the City. Busch said the Dora Nelson museum “has become a big asset to our city over the years.”

The Dora Nelson African-American Art and History Museum was damaged by high winds and rainstorms last year.
The Dora Nelson African-American Art and History Museum was damaged by high winds and rainstorms last year.

“Raising funds is difficult during a tough economy,” Busch said, thanking the historical association for hosting an event for a fellow museum. “I am happy to be here and represent the City at this worthy cause.” Rogers said she isn’t surprised by the community support.

“When things need getting done in Perris, the community comes forward to lend a helping hand,” Rogers said. “It is important to preserve the legacy and history of the African-American community in the Perris Valley. The rich and wonderful diversity of this community gives us the opportunity to fellowship with each other and help each other.”

To learn more about donating to the Dora Nelson African-American Art and History Museum, call Lovella Singer at 310-740-5315.