Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Call To Action: Give The National Civil Rights Museum Back To The People!!!

Call To Action:

Liberate Civil Rights Museum From Corporate Control

The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, after a long heroic struggle led by D'Army Bailey in its creation, finally opened in 1991. The plan had been to turn the Lorraine motel not only into a museum but also for the institution to serve as a nexus for activities to help carry out the unfinished business of the civil rights movement, especially among youth.

Sadly, as often happens with such worthy endeavors, the vision was compromised, when the institution was hijacked by wealthy, powerful corporate interests. Shortly after the opening, the founder of the museum, civil rights veteran D'Army Bailey, was ousted as president of the foundation that operated the museum. An executive committe of the board was created and an extremely wealthy white conservative Republican, J.R. Pitt Hyde, was named chair of the executive committee. Hyde continues to this day as chair of the executive committee.

National Civil Rights Museum:
What Is Wrong With This Story?

* The board of the foundation has 32 members.
* The majority of the board members are not black.
* The vast majority of the board members are corporate connected.
* There is very little socioeconomic diversity within the board.
* There are only 3 of the 32 board members who may be considered civil rights movement veterans.
* There are no movement people on the board who are from outside of Memphis.
* Board meetings are not announced and therefore access from the community is not welcomed.
* The Chairman of the Executive Committee of the board is J.R. Pitt Hyde. He has been in that controlling role since 1991.
* Pitt Hyde is an extremely wealthy white conservative Republican.
* In September 2006, Pitt Hyde hosted a fundraiser in his home for Bob Corker, the opponent of Harold Ford, Jr. in the 2006 U.S. Senate race in Tennessee. If elected, Ford would have been Tennessee's first black U.S. Senator.
* Pitt Hyde's fundraiser for Harold Ford's opponent was attended by George Bush and raised close to a million dollars.

Legendary American Civil Rights Activist And The Righteous Visionary/Founder of The National Civil Rights Museum
The Honorable Judge D'Army Bailey

Pitt Hyde is reported to generally make many of the major decisions; for example, who will receive the International Freedom award. Recipients of the National Freedom award have included Hyde's other two long term members on the board. $25,000 goes with the national award. These two recipients have been on the board for many years and are supporters of Hyde.

This year, it is reported that Magic Johnson is to get a freedom award. He has done good work in the cause of AIDS prevention and treatment, but after all, this is also in his self-interest.

How many board members could pass a test on civil rights history and its still living legendary veterans throughout the United States and internationally? Why are there not several of these great movement veterans on the board? Why isn't one of them receiving a Freedom Award this year?

The museum property is owned by the state of Tennessee, but leased, controlled, and operated by the private foundation and foundation's board. Last month, the foundation board attempted to finalize the exercising of an option clause to purchase the museum property from Tennessee for $1. This possible purchase has thus far been stopped by the efforts of local activists and Tennessee Black Caucus leaders. The board has still not responded to the state's request for records and documents concerning the operation of the museum.

The private foundation that controls the museum is now trying to renew a lease with the state of Tennessee for 50 or more years.

Can we afford to let this happen? Do we want private corporate America to rewrite and control civil rights history, programs, mission, and access by All.

If this is of concern to you or you have question, please contact:

State Representative Barbara Cooper
683 Harbor Edge Circle Apt. 101
Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 578-7008
Legislative Office:
38 Legislative Plaza
Nashville, TN 37243-0186
(615) 741-4295
FAX (615) 741-8752

Ms. Cooper is a member of the Tennessee Black Caucus. Please respond quickly, as the Tennessee Building Commission will respond to the lease request from the private foundation no later than the end of this month and possibly as soon as the next few days.

The Black Caucus has asked that a long term lease to the private foundation not be granted, and that instead a short term lease of six months be permitted, so an investigation of documents, operation, and future mission of the museum can be completed, and also so they can respond to the 200-300 citizens who turned out to protest the sale of the museum for $1 to a private foundation dominated by corporate interests.

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