Join Martin Luther King, III, Rev. Al Sharpton, and other special guests in the
March and Vigil to Save the National Civil Rights Museum.
What: March and Vigil to Save the National Civil Rights Museum
When: Saturday, December 8,2007
Time: March begins at 12:00 noon (Start to Assemble at 11:00 a.m.)
Where: March begins at Clayborn Temple (Corner of Hernando and Pontotoc,
Directly Across from FedEx Forum)
Vigil will be held in front of the National Civil Rights Museum
at 450 Mulberry Street, Memphis, Tennessee.
Bring: Friends, Relatives, Church Members, Neighbors, and
your Signs, Posters & Banners)
Guests: Martin Luther King, III
(son of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)
Rev. Al Sharpton (National Action Network)
Charles Steele (National President SCLC)
Rev. C.T. Vivian
(Living Legend of the Civil Rights Movement)
For More Information: Contact DeKe Pope at 901-277-7748
Statement read by DeKe Pope for
Lorraine Civil Rights Museum Community Oversight Committee
November 27, 2007 press conference:
The battle for control of the National Civil Rights museum has now entered a crucial phase. The Bredesen Administration and Tennessee State officials will most likely decide in two weeks whether to sign a long-term forty year lease with the present Board that has allowed this historic site to deteriorate. We of the Lorraine Civil Rights Museum Community Oversight Committee started at the invitation of black Tennessee state legislators. We have been meeting and working now for several months on this issue.
During this time we have enlisted scores of community volunteers who have researched other national museums, reviewed what financial and other records the Museum Board has slowly made available, and we have set about to educate the community not to take for granted that this historic site of Dr. King’s death will always be ours.
Frankly, it almost slipped by our community that in February this year this Board was planning to buy the museum for a dollar after which a predominantly white, conservative and corporate controlled board would have had total control of this symbol of black struggle. When black legislators began raising questions about this impending state give-a-way, this Board quickly abandoned that plan. Instead they asked for a fifty year lease at no cost. More recently, in a grudging acknowledgment that the community is outraged by these finaglings with our history, the Board has now dropped its request from fifty to forty years of control.
It is bad enough that a conservative white businessman, Mr. J.R. Pitt Hyde, with no record of commitment to civil rights, has controlled this taxpayer-owned site for 16 years as chair of its Executive Committee. It is worse that blacks on the board have allowed themselves to be reduced to less than a majority in tightly controlled board elections where community representation is sparse and labor representation is completely absent. And worse still is that this is a board with no member who is generally known to have been active in social activism or civil rights advocacy in the sixteen years since the museum opened.
The Community Oversight Committee has already submitted its research data and proposals for change in the governance and structure of the museum to appropriate state officials and the legislative black caucus. Importantly the newly proposed board will be committed to also aggressively seeking city, county, state and federal operating support which has been missing up to now but is common in other cities civil rights facilities. The Community Oversight Committee proposals also provide that its new board will have a two thirds black majority, will organize specific ongoing programs to focus to help black and poor youth, and partner with other civil rights groups nationally to develop new civil rights strategies. This will be a new national and community board which will include corporate and government leaders but will be guided largely by individuals with current involvement in the ongoing struggle for black advancement.
There is no other place in the world as important to black America as this motel where another King of Kings was crucified. The future of who controls this motel and therefore black history will be decided in Nashville in two weeks. Those blacks in the Tennessee legislature who serve in office because of the sacrifices of Dr. Kings and other soldiers of our movement must now step forward and declare themselves on who they support to control this sacred site, us, or them? As black state officials on an issue so vital to the black world, surely their voice will be strong with the Governor and state officials who will decide the future of this treasure of our legacy.
But we cannot rest on faith alone. Those in the Memphis black community who have been saying quietly but encouragingly that we are right and they are with us must now come out into the light. You the citizens of this great community must now show that you are with us.
To that end we are planning a Mass Rally and March To Take Back Our History. The March will be planned to proceed from the Clayborn Temple to the Lorraine Motel on Saturday, December 8th at twelve noon. We have invited, and the following national leaders have accepted our invitation to lead this march and speak at the rally at the Lorraine Motel. Leading our march will be the son of the man this sacred site celebrates, Martin Luther King III. For too many years the King family has been rebuffed and this is an opportunity for solidarity. Alongside Martin the third will be Dr. Charles Steele, National President of the SCLC, the Atlanta based civil rights group Dr. King helped found, and led throughout his life. These two national leaders will be joined in Memphis by Rev. Al Sharpton, President of the National Action Network, Rev. C.T. Vivian, a historic figure in the Nashville Movement and in Dr. King’s Selma, Alabama campaign, and national black journalist George Currie. We expect other civil rights luminaries, veterans and current activists will also be coming.
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