Today we had the pleasure of having Dr. Russ Wigginton from the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis speak to the club.
His view from his office is over Room 360 of the Lorraine Hotel, where Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. The site gets 300,000 visitors a year, who clearly are deeply moved by their experience at the Civil Rights Museum.
Between 1968 and 1991, that motel feel into disrepair. It was an eyesore. Through the efforts of many, the museum opened in 1991. It has grown tremendously in the 30+ years of its existence. They have earned Smithsonian affiliation and are an international site of consciousness.
Their mission is to preserve the memory of Dr. King, (look up on web). There is a vast array of people who visit the museum. They intentionally focus on the similarities, things like shared values, dignity, and respect. It is a place for people to come together and the museum allows people to experience its message on their own terms.
Annual signature programming for the museum includes King Day which is a community day with educational opportunities to allow visitors to celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King. On April 4th each year, the museum also conducts a commemoration of Dr. King’s death and legacy with a time of renewal and reflection through speeches given in the museum courtyard. Another annual event is the Ruby Bridges Reading Festival which is a community literacy event for K-12 students and families.
For 32 years, the museum has awarded a Freedom Award which is a day of inspiration for those attending. Past recipients include Coretta Scott King, Jimmy Carter and Colin Powell.
The museum has three pillars: Education, Arts & Culture and Economic Development. They are embarking on a new project to digitize the entire collection from the museum in order to build a curriculum to share. The NCRM is also working to create a standard for health equity in response to the sanitation workers who were killed as a result faulty equipment and lack of resources available to them at the time Dr. King stopped in Memphis to address these issues.
Dr. Wigginton further shared with us about the museum’s partnership with AutoZone through a $5M donation to develop a strategy to work with corporate America to create and maintain a diverse workforce. The C-Suite initiative allows the museum to create the framework to assist businesses through a two-day program that has been developed as a result of this partnership.
Finally, Dr. Wigginton shared that they be breaking ground on April 4, 2023, on a museum expansion that will be completed in 2025. He invited all of us to come visit but did say it would be required after 2025 so we can see what they have done through this expansion!
Scribe: Annette Winston