For Immediate Release
Coalition for Ensuring the Black Legacy at the
Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
October 3, 2018
Community Coalition Challenges the C.H. Wright Museum Board over Controversial Jefferson Exhibition and Lack of Community Representation in Museum Leadership
A Coalition of 20 community organizations, bolstered by social media campaigns (MoveOn.org and ColorofChange.org) that collected more than 17,000 signatures, has been rebuffed by the Board of Trustees of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History (CHWMAAH) in its effort to win community representation on the Board, and prevent the hosting of the exhibition, “Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty.”
Recently the Coalition wrote to the Museum Board to oppose installation of the Jefferson plantation exhibition during Black History Month, 2019. The exhibit seeks to represent the slavery experience in ways that delete or obscure the essential features of the plantation system: inhumane violence and terror. As such, the exhibit erases from history the sufferings of our ancestors, and fails to acknowledge their extraordinary capacity to overcome the oppression to which they were subjected. This falsification of history is offensive and inappropriate, given the heinous practices of slaveholders like Jefferson, and given the nature of current race relations in the U.S., where police violence and murder of our youth continue to plague our communities. Thousands of signers have supported the Coalition’s insistence that such an exhibit should not be featured at the CHWMAAH, which was founded to uplift and inspire the African American community.
In a letter to the Coalition, the Museum Board has reiterated their determination to host the Jefferson exhibition. They also rejected the Coalition’s proposal that there be community representation on the Museum Board and the CEO Selection Committee.
The recent ouster of CEO and President, Ms. Juanita Moore, prompted the Black community’s concerned response. Ms. Moore was dismissed suddenly, despite her stellar record of creating financial stability for the Museum, and raising the programming of the Museum to a level of national recognition and enthusiastic community support. Within two months of her leaving, the Board appears to be moving towards other staff changes, alerting the Coalition that the Board intends a new direction in policies and programs. We are concerned that this new direction is intended to accommodate corporate/private, White supremacist interests –like the Jefferson exhibition — rather than those of the African American community at large.
Indeed, it appears that the Board member who is taking the lead in imposing the Jefferson exhibition is Euro-American attorney James P. Cunningham of Williams Williams Rattner and Plunkett law firm, Birmingham, MI. The other Board members appear indifferent to the outrage of 17,000 individuals who have signed the petitions against the exhibit.
Are the Board Members aware that Jefferson made an enslaved child, Sally Hemings, the bearer of seven of his children (only four of whom survived to adulthood)? Are they aware that for over a century, white historians in the U.S. attempted to cover up this history, dismissing the claims of African American descendants of Hemings and Jefferson, until DNA science made it impossible for them to do so? Having no alternative now but to recognize Thomas Jefferson’s outrageous hypocrisy as a slaveholder, such historians now want to recast Sally Hemings, the enslaved child, Jefferson’s victim, in the following contradictory ways: “…Negotiator. Liberator. World traveler. Enslaved woman. Concubine. Inherited property. Mystery.” (Press release, Office of Cultural Affairs, City of Dallas) What unmitigated deceit!
At a community meeting held at Sacred Heart Church on September 19, 200+ activists carried out a nomination and election process to vet 10 community representatives to join the Museum Board, and four community representatives to join the CEO Selection Committee. The following were the criteria for nomination:
- Ten or more years of ongoing engagement in community service or organizing to advance and protect the rights and well being of the African American community
- Demonstrated leadership and trust of community
- Interest in, knowledge and advocacy of African American history and culture
- Readiness to collaborate to generate resources to maintain African American institutions
The following well-known community activists were elected:
Ms. Theo Broughton
Mr. Jamon Jordan
Ms. Marian Kramer
Mrs. Helen Moore
Ms. Monica Patrick
Ms. Tawana Petty
Prof. Charles Simmons
Ms. Maureen Taylor
Mr. Paul Taylor
Mr. Malik Yakini
Alternate: Mr. Khary Frazier
CEO Selection Committee
Atty. Jeffrey Edison
Dr. Gloria Aneb House
Mr. Michael Imhotep
Rev. JoAnn Watson
Alternate: Dr. Kefentse Chike
The Coalition will continue to demand that these elected community representatives be included on the Museum Board and the CEO Selection Committee.
As the corporations and their allies in government and public agencies continue their ruthless gentrification of Detroit, dispossessing African Americans and other people of color through home foreclosures, illegal property taxes, water shutoffs, toxic water and school closings, and as these forces insist on building yet another jail to facilitate the school-to-prison-pipeline for our youth, the Coalition will take all actions at its disposal to ensure that the CHWMAAH remains a center of our community, governed in the interest of the community.
The Coalition is appealing to everyone who treasures the Museum, both locally and nationally, to speak out, send letters and texts to the Board Chairperson, Mr. Eric Peterson (email@example.com) and Interim COO, Mr. George Hamilton, retired Dow Chemical Executive (firstname.lastname@example.org). Demand that the elected community representatives be seated on the Museum Board and on the Selection Committee for the new CEO, and that another exhibit, representative of our people’s hopes and strivings, be brought to the Museum to celebrate African American History Month, 2019.
The next meeting of the Coalition will be held at 6:30 p.m. on October 10th at West Side Unity Church, 4727 Joy Road, Detroit
BEIJING — A Chinese court sentenced former American football player Wendell Brown to four years in prison Thursday for being involved in a bar fight, a punishment his lawyer and an activist called excessive.
Brown, a native of Detroit who played for Ball State University in Indiana, had been teaching American football in southwest China when he was arrested in September 2016 and later charged with intentional assault. He has denied hitting a man at a bar and said he had raised his arms in self-defense after being attacked.
A judge in the city of Chongqing issued the sentence after a brief hearing, Brown’s lawyer Wu Junmei said by phone. Brown intends to appeal, she said.
More: After 20 months in Chinese prison, CFL’s Wendell Brown to get verdict
More: Wendell Brown saga: The battle to bring the former Ball State football player home from China rages on
On the night of September 24, 2016, revelers at a nightclub threw a bottle at Brown and an altercation followed, his supporters say. Afterward, a local man accused Brown of seriously injuring his eye, which had to be removed. The man demanded more than $100,000 in compensation or else he would pursue the case in court.
“Four years for a fight in a bar is extremely unjust and excessive,” said John Kamm, a San Francisco-based activist who frequently meets with senior Chinese officials to seek clemency for political prisoners in China and had lobbied them on Brown’s behalf.
China sometimes deports foreigners following their conviction but it was unclear whether deportation was a possibility for Brown, said Kamm. Brown has already been detained 20 months while awaiting the verdict.
Brown’s supporters say the White House, the State Department and Michigan state officials have raised the case with China.
Wendell Brown and his son.
PROVIDED BY ANTOINETTE BROWN
“We are aware of reports that Mr. Brown has been sentenced to four years,” a spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing said Thursday. “The Department of State takes seriously its duty to assist U.S. citizens abroad. We continue to closely follow his case.”
Brown, 31, played linebacker for Ball State between 2004 and 2008 and went on to play in the Canadian Football League before moving to China to coach.
Similar disputes are often settled out-of-court in China — where the conviction rate is 99 percent — but Brown did not reach a settlement with the plaintiff and pleaded not guilty.
“I still don’t understand: he is guilty of what?” Brown’s mother, Antoinette, said by phone after the verdict. “It was all about the money. It was a clear shakedown. It’s unfair justice.”
6:36 a.m. EDT June 28, 2018
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