The song of summer is upon us, and I am happy to report several pieces of what I call our Grace & Mercy news: an award of $1 million from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to support children's programming, and a donation of $100,000 from LJ Holdings Investment Company CEO and museum Trustee Jon E. Barfield. We are so grateful to the Kellogg Foundation and Mr. Barfield, and to the hundreds of others who have stepped up since the beginning of the year to help support the institution envisioned by Dr. Charles H. Wright, whose 96th birthday will be commemorated at this year’s Legacy Dinner Saturday, September 20. As we come closer to the 50th anniversary of the founding of the museum, it is incumbent upon all of our stakeholders that we move beyond thinking of our gifts as merely support, but also sustenance – an ongoing source of funding that by its very nature will insure the sustainability of The Wright for its next 50 years. Our history and the gifts of our ancestors require nothing less.
But still, like dust, (we’ll) rise.
Jon Barfield knows this, as his $100,000 gift is but one of several he and his wife, Dr. Vivian Carpenter, have made over the years, including the hosting of fundraisers in their home. So does Howard Sims, who provided a $100,000 match to the Give A Grand, Make a Million campaign. Then, there is our Alma Greer. A retired teacher, principal, and 30-year veteran of the Highland Park School Board, Greer made it a point to take her kindergarten class to visit the International Afro-American Museum when Dr. Wright and his partners opened it in 1965. In 2013, she dedicated her 80th birthday celebration to the museum by asking family and friends to raise funds in lieu of birthday gifts. And just this past June, her foundation made it possible for a group of kindergarten students to not only visit, but also enjoy a fine dining experience – something many of them had never had the opportunity to do before.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still (we’ll) rise.
For a living institution like the museum, the work, and financial need, never ends. Like time and tides, they have their ebb and flow. But the very real effort of attracting talent, expanding capacity, and building towards sustainability has never been greater, or more necessary. We are at a cusp, having attracted over a quarter of a million guests this past year for the first time in our history, with the promise of so many, and so much, more. We must go from "good to great," from great to awesome, and awesome to (nationally) accredited.
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain…
Bringing the gifts that (our) ancestor(s) gave…
As the late Maya Angelou said, "We need to remember that we are created creative and can invent new scenarios as frequently as they are needed." In making my appeal that your continued gifts to The Wright be seen as necessary to allowing it to enact its mission with the highest levels of scholarship and service, and in accordance with the stature and dignity of the history and pride it represents, I hope Maya will forgive my liberties with her poem that inspired the name of our core exhibit, And Still We Rise.
"Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert."
- Isaiah 43:19
Together, we will.