Fight to save Brockway Center continues

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OKLAHOMA CITY – The fight to save history while still making progress continues.

This is at the Brockway House. It was a safe place for African American women for decades; now, it may be torn down to make way for a larger, more modern facility.

The plan right now is to tear down the building and build a facility that will help abused children.

But, many in the community said the structure has withstood the test of time and tearing it down will destroy an important part of history in northeast Oklahoma City.

“We need to save this building,” said Melba Holt, a former member of the Oklahoma City Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs.

“It would be very painful, and it would be tragic,” said Gina Sofola, a supporter of the Oklahoma City Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs.

The Brockway Center is still standing after more than 100 years, but that might change.

“It is an African American cultural resource, and we don’t have that many in Oklahoma City that speak to the significance of our history,” Sofola said.

For 50 years, the Oklahoma City Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs met at the home.

“I was tutored, given snacks, given supervision and taught about the world outside of our neighborhood,” Holt said. “It was a bridge, not a wall.”

But, the Child Abuse Response and Evaluation Center, or CARE, bought the property in 2018 in hopes of building a new, larger facility.

“We truly do believe that we have explored all of our efforts,” said Stacy McNeiland, CEO of The CARE Center. “You can not remodel this building.”

Many disagree.

“Our history needs to be preserved,” Holt said. “It doesn’t need to be destroyed.”

“We are tearing down a fabric of the tapestry that builds up our community,” Sofola said.

However, the Oklahoma City Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs and CARE signed a Memorandum of Understanding in March.

“They have input, they have a seat on our board, the Brockway Center, and a seat on the future planning committee, so this is a joint effort in moving forward,” McNeiland said.

But, Holt said it’s still not good enough for her.

“Absolutely not,” she said. “I’m digging my heels in for the respect this center deserves.”

Now, it’s up to a vote by city leaders.

“We’ve said do you have the money,” McNeiland said. “Do you have the options, and those come up to none so we fee like we owe it to the children of Oklahoma County to move forward.”

The Commission on Medical Zoning will vote on the demolition on May 22.

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