An Open Letter To The Community From Executive Director Tina Washington-Abubeker: African Cultural Center Crisis?

I am writing this letter  as the Executive Director of the African American Cultural Center of Buffalo, Inc. (AACC) to exercise my responsibility to the community to share some concerns that are disheartening to say the least.

I have worked as the executive director for the AACC since July 1, 2020. Over the past year, despite COVID, I have made every effort to keep the center open and operating as a viable resource. I have done this in the face of many challenges from the current Board of Directors.

In addition to differences of opinion regarding their role, duties, and responsibility as a Board and mine as the Executive Director, there has been constant conflict regarding the Board being overly involved the daily operations of the agency. The Board consistently goes against the organizational structure, organization chart and bi-laws of the Board. Their actions and conduct contradict the guidelines and statutes that they have created and are counterproductive to the protocol typical of organizations in the non-profit arena.

Unfortunately, the Board has been inexperienced, untrained, and ill-prepared to carry out its duties according to strategic plans and initiatives that can move the agency forward. The Board has not been open to any suggestions of training nor are they receptive to the idea of transparency for the sake of the agency as a whole. For the sake of simplicity, I have outlined some of  the facts and issues:

•The Board was not able to provide me an orientation at the time of hire and advised me to look in the files and the computer to orient myself.

•Although I advised the Board that I needed to re-hire for positions that were previously occupied by agency support staff during the time of my predecessor’s employ, they refused to allow hiring and added those extra duties of three positions – Program Coordinator, Grant Writer, and Educational Directives staff to my already extensive list of duties.

•Later I took it upon myself to fill the public relations position with opposition from the Board in the Spring of 2021. Every position that I have hired for has been met with contention.

•In November 2020 I was told that the Board decided that the Chair would be coming to help me (because I had not been given an orientation). My pay was reduced, and she was paid a portion (of my pay). She stated that she would only be there for one month and be gone after Thanksgiving. She stayed for two months and spent that time taking notes and asking me questions; essentially requiring me to provide an orientation for her.

•In December 2020 I was fired for restoring my pay to what it was prior to the cut. In correcting their mistake, I was accused of stealing. Even prior to them cutting my pay, I protested and advised them to no avail that their actions were not legal, moral, or ethical and I outlined the reason.

•The Board received advisement to restore me to my position and pay me the back pay owed. To date I have not been paid. I required a contract, correct pay, and Board training for me to return to the job. To date, those measures have not been met and the Board training has not been put into effect and appears to be less of a priority.

•The Board’s micromanagement and prioritizing of menial duties interferes with the administrative, fiscal, and capacity building functions of the Executive Director. Furthermore, they will not prepare the agency to move forward to the future of capital development.

•There are decisions that should include the community stakeholders, the community at large, and participants/attendees/patrons. The board has discouraged this concept.

•These entities need to create a Review Board and demand that the current Board resign or have term limits written into the bylaws. If not, we stand to lose the AACC which has been a beacon for generations as well as the historic Paul Robeson Theatre which is one of the oldest Black theatres that still exists nationwide.

As an advocate, I refuse to compromise my integrity and moral obligation to the communities that I serve.

I will invoke my rights under the Whistle Blower clause of the AACC Board Bylaws, however, this act of transparency is still likely to be met with consequence. I refuse to continue to be held administratively, financially, or legally liable for the decisions and governance of the current Board.

Tina Washington-Abubeker

I call upon the New York State Attorney General to protect the assets of this non-profit corporation.

I cannot fight this fight alone, so I am seeking the community’s support, assistance and prayers. We cannot afford to lose this priceless  cultural treasure!

Tina Washington-Abubeker

I can be reached at tr-wa@hotmail.com or tinawashingtonabubeker@gmail.com