FRESNO, Calif. (KGPE) – History, it’s something that is important to preserve here in the valley. It’s the reason former police officer Jack Kelly and his wife Rose founded the African American historical & cultural museum of the San Joaquin Valley (SJV).

“This building is the foundation when we talk about black history in the valley. This is a piece of Martin Luther King and below that piece, we see the “I’ve been to the mountaintop speech by MLK,” said Nafesha Ruth Yisrael, Executive Director of the museum.

It’s that same passion now being carried out by Yisrael.

“Our artists are shaping our culture, our culture is our strength,” said Yisrael.

Yisrael, an avid artist, studied folk art from the 20th century.  Her connection to the museum started with a simple invitation from a friend.

“He invited me to come out and help paint the walls. When this opportunity came I found myself in a unique position where I had the background of running non-profits, an art background and I studied urban studies,” said Yisrael.

The first event she attended made an impact, and she has been here ever since, working with artists and the community, which ultimately lead her to lead.

“This is Audia Dixson, Audia is a Fresno State Grad who now teaches at Clovis Community. Then we have Kambrya and she is an amazing abstract artist with really unique stories behind her art.”

In addition to the local art exhibit, we also discovered the 2nd floor contained a wall of fame and a children’s library.

“This is not a project for me, this is life,” Yisrael explained.