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Whether she was leading walking tours of local stops on the Underground Railroad, curating an exhibit featuring black women artists, or traveling to Senegal with students to show them where their ancestors came from, LuJuana Hood dedicated her life to promoting the rich history of people of African heritage in Springfield. Hood returned home at age 65 on May 7th, 2019, after a sudden illness. She was the founder and executive director of the Pan African Historical Museum U.S.A. Pan African refers to people of African descent regardless of where they were born. “She always wanted to dispel and let the younger generation know we did not come from slavery. Our history did not begin with slavery; it began with kings and queens of Africa,” said Rosemary Tracy Woods, executive director and chief curator of Art for the Soul Gallery, just around the corner from Hood’s museum in Tower Square. “It was her passion to educate, to make sure the youth and all age groups knew of our heritage, and she made us understand and believe that we were regal,” Woods said she and Hood spent hours discussing their dream of purchasing a large building in the city that could house the museum, the art gallery and workshop space for educational and creative projects. One of Hood’s last projects was gathering oral histories.  “She wanted to leave something for future generations,” Woods said. “It was her goal that every child should visit Africa to see their rich heritage because there is a misconception that Africans are running around in the jungle when it’s one of the richest continents in the world in terms of resources and knowledge.” Hood was often recognized for her work and recently featured in the book “The Power of Women” for over 20 years working in the cultural heritage field. She took students from DeBerry Elementary School on educational tours to Senegal, West Africa, directed Springfield's African American Heritage Trail walking tour, and volunteered at the school for many years. She just loved working with children,” said Maggie Jenkins, a parent facilitator at the Springfield school. “She also helped with the Ambassador program and established a pen pal program for students. No one can ever fill her shoes.” She directed the Makeda Project, which focuses on the cultural heritage of African American women and investigates how forced migration to the new world shaped the culture of African Americans and women. Hood worked with longtime friend and colleague Janine Fondon on “The Intersection: Women of Color on the Move,” which featured women like Hood’s grandmother Elouise Franklin, a missionary. The exhibit features the stories of women who impacted everything from the civil rights movement to feminism. Fondon, chairwoman of the undergraduate communications department at Bay Path University in Longmeadow, said her professional relationship with Hood turned into a personal one over the years. She told the Intersection project led Hood to find people in Springfield whose impact was much more significant than our city or state. “She was able to find African American women from Hancock Street that became leaders in the U.S. Navy back when the Navy first included women,” Fondon said. “That’s just one example of the depth of her connecting those dots. I have taken Bay Path students to the museum every semester to hear her lectures about Timbuktu and the empires we came from. She was able to make history relevant to young people.” Fondon said she spent much time speaking with Hood about her goals for the museum and the community. “I interviewed her a couple of times about her work so that I could understand it in her words, and one of the areas she focused on was cultural heritage,” Fondon said. “She liked to call it intangible cultural heritage because it focused on folklore, tradition, and knowledge, and she connected Africa to our story here in the U.S. What made her special is that she connected the dots.” Wayne E. Phaneuf and Joseph Carvalho III, local historians and editors of “The Power of Women” and “The Struggle for Freedom: The History of African Americans in Western Massachusetts,” worked with Hood over the years, said her energy and passion would be missed. “LuJuana was a tireless advocate for spreading the word on the importance of what African Americans have contributed to not only this region but worldwide,” said Phaneuf, executive editor of The Republican. “She was as comfortable in Chicago and Senegal as in Springfield. Her work will live on among the hundreds of people she touched and taught, from her re-creations of escapes from slavery to her years as executive director of the Pan African Historical Museum U.S.A. at Tower Square. She will be missed.” Carvalho said he enjoyed working with Hood since they both shared a love of history. “As historians and museum professionals, we often shared our findings and helped each other bring that history to light for new generations,” he said. “She was a tireless advocate for learning more about our collective past.” Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno often saw Hood at community events and cultural celebrations. “Ms. Hood was always a proud, steadfast, and compassionate advocate for our African American community, but she did it uniquely — through art, by allowing you to visualize it,” he said. Amilcar Shabazz, a professor of history and Africana studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and his wife, Demetria Shabazz, a lecturer at the university, worked with Hood on several projects throughout the years. “This region of Western Massachusetts anchored by the metropolis of Springfield contains a true treasure trove of historical material that is both very inspiring and also very hidden from the view and the understanding of the wider public,” Amilcar Shabazz said. “It was part of our shared enthusiasm to find ways to bring to the wider public that wealth of information.” The future of the museum has not been decided. Sam Bradley, director of African music for the museum, said decisions would be made by Carl Yates, vice president of the board of directors. “All I know is that we can’t let her legacy die,” said Bradley, who worked with Hood on many projects, including the Underground Railroad tours, where he was a character actor. Before she died, Bradley noted, Hood was working on a program where minority entrepreneurs would read to elementary school students. “The idea was to have them meet people who have struggled but came up on the other side and are now reading to these kids,” he said. “She was always planning her next project.”

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