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Friday, January 27, 2023

East Gainesville Community Center at risk of closure

M.A.M.A.’s club, a Black community center, seeks donations to stay alive

<p>Faye Williams, owner of M.A.M.A.’s Club, speaks at a community gathering organized by GoDDsville Dream Defenders on Friday, April 2, 2021. Williams spoke about an upcoming fundraiser for MAMA’s Club and social issues affecting Gainesville.</p>

Faye Williams, owner of M.A.M.A.’s Club, speaks at a community gathering organized by GoDDsville Dream Defenders on Friday, April 2, 2021. Williams spoke about an upcoming fundraiser for MAMA’s Club and social issues affecting Gainesville.

For three years, Terri Bailey hosted poetry readings and art exhibits to support the East Gainesville community at a sacred space called M.A.M.A.’s Club.

The 54-year-old writer and community organizer, along with the club's local organizers, helped advocate for the removal of the Old Joe confederate statue, which formerly sat in front of the Alachua County Administration Building and was torn down in 2017. Bailey and fellow club supporters wrote letters to local government officials and held protests to remove the statue.  

“M.A.M.A.’s Clubs’ activism in the community is key to some of the advancements that we've made in our community,” Bailey said. 

But the club, one of the few Black-owned community spaces in Gainesville, is at risk of closure due to accumulated rent bills.

Faye Williams, a 66-year-old Gainesville social justice activist, founded M.A.M.A.'s Club in 2017. The center, which stands for music, arts, movement and action, is a gathering place for people in East Gainesville to celebrate Black history and attend community events. 

“That's what I'm about, helping my people in the Black community,” Williams said. 

Williams owes around $1,600 in accumulated rent since the onset of the pandemic. During this time period, portions of the club's rent piled up because it didn't receive enough donations to pay the total each month. Additional late fees started accumulating on April 1. Williams has been fundraising for the center through online payment websites like PayPal and Venmo.

Originally located in Downtown Gainesville, the club moved in 2019 to the city-owned G-TEC building on Hawthorne Road near Santa Fe College.

Williams said the physical M.A.M.A.'s Club space has been closed since last March but operates virtually, which has created expenses, such as paying for a Zoom business subscription. She’s organized online community events through Zoom, like when Diedre F. Houchen, an interdisciplinary scholar who studies the intersections of race and education, spoke to the club about educational challenges facing the Black community in Alachua County Schools.

The club has always been free to attend and sustained on donations to avoid discrimination based on race, sex and economic status, Williams said.

Williams also believes the center is vital to the community because of its educational opportunities. The club offers GED classes like poetry reading events and history classes.

Bailey’s organization, Bailey Learning and Arts Collective, also known as BLAAC2BASICS, has used M.A.M.A.’s Club to host poetry readings and exhibit art. Once, Bailey premiered an international film at the center. 

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Williams needs to secure the funds for the center so she can continue providing work for the community, Bailey said. 

The Civic Media Center, a nonprofit library in Gainesville, will host an online fundraising event for M.A.M.A.’s Club and the Pace Center for Girls on April 24, Bailey said. 

Williams hopes to reopen the club after the pandemic. Then, she plans to organize sit-ins and peaceful protests with M.A.M.A.’s Club regulars in hopes that they’ll draw eyes to Black businesses she feels the city has neglected.

“That's my next program,” Williams said. “We're going to go up and sit on the floor (at Gainesville City Hall) and do a civil disobedience, because they're not paying attention to the Black community.”

This article has been updated to reflect that M.A.M.A.s Club owed $1,600 in rent and started accumulating additional late fees on April 1. The Alligator initially reported otherwise.

Contact Michelle Holder at Follow her on Twitter @michellecholder.

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Michelle Holder

Michelle Holder is a second-year journalism student at UF minoring in entrepreneurship and a Metro reporter at The Alligator. She is from Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. In her free time she enjoys going to coffee shops and reading. 

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