A trove of cultural and financial records from three major African-American institutions has vanished without a trace in Harlem — and their owner is desperate to get them back.
Community activist Miles McAfee has been plastering signs all over Harlem, begging for help in finding the bag that was heisted in a smash-and-dash burglary near Mount Morris Park earlier this month.
Inside the bag were financial records for a future museum being developed at an unidentified uptown location to honor Malcolm X.
Also missing: Dozens of confidential documents from a group that supports the work of one of Harlem’s great treasures, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, which has been a magnet for scholars since 1925.
The papers — secret fund-raising data, board minutes and account statements — were stuffed inside a black-and-gray travel bag left on the back seat of a parked car on W. 124th St. by McAfee.
McAfee runs the Film & Culture Series at the predominately black school, and among the lost items were films, DVDs, cassettes and drafts of proposals for stage events, musical acts and educational programming.
He also serves on the board of the still-forming Malcolm X Museum and as a trustee of the Schomburg Corp.
“The more I think about the things inside my bag that were stolen, I realize most of them helped to build and develop institutions in the community to educate and help people increase their life chances and experiences,” he said.
“So, in essence the person broke my car window and took my bag — but he really stole from all of us.”
It happened on Easter Sunday, April 8, in broad daylight — 10:48 a.m., a nearby security camera’s time stamp shows — when a thief smashed the passenger-side window of McAfee’s black 2009 Altima Hybrid, snatched his satchel and fled.
A couple of joggers at the scene, 9 W. 124th St., either saw or said nothing, and the bag has been missing ever since.
“They have my entire life,” McAfee said.
That also includes his passport, personal IRS records, Social Security number, mortgage statements, checkbooks, credit cards, phone books, business plans and contact lists, he said.
Proprietary board minutes involving Schomburg finances and a raft of financial plans and proposed programs for the future Malcolm X Museum have also disappeared. The thief snagged very little cash.
“I can only imagine what treasures were in that bag,” said Aysha Schomburg, president of the Schomburg Corp., a community-based support group founded in 1971 to raise funds and organize programming for the Schomburg Center.
Schomburg, a lawyer for the City Council’s education committee, is the great-grandaughter of Arturo Schomburg, the founder of the Schomburg Center, which collects and preserves materials documenting black history and culture.
She said she recruited McAfee to the 50-member board two years ago after attending his cultural events at Medgar Evers and the annual tributes he organizes to mark Malcolm X’s birthday each May 19.
“Miles is awesome at outreach and fund-raising and personal connections, and he knows how to bring people — with their wallets — into the fold,” she said.
“He’s old-fashioned in the sense that he maps out his passion for black history and culture on paper, and he keeps all his contacts in a phone book,” Schomburg said.
“The problem is, those papers and that phone book were all in the stolen bag.”
Desperate to get the documents back, McAfee has been posting signs all over central Harlem.
“I’m still on the hunt,” he said hopefully.
Anyone with information is asked to call (718) 804-8815.