Letter from the president - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Letter from the President, October 2017

Over the past three months, The Wright Museum has been filled with contemplation, commemoration, and celebration. From Say It Loud: Art, History, Rebellion, our 50th anniversary exhibition on the 1967 Detroit Rebellion, to the 35th annual African World Festival, the museum and its programming has been a centerpiece of our community. 

As we look back, it's important to recognize The Wright Museum is one of many institutions across the country that arose from the Civil Rights Movement. These organizations were created to help shape the changes taking place in our society, and provide agency in the battle against racism, segregation, and inequality. 

How radical an idea this was – museums founded by and for the people in the communities they served. These were living entities, providing the common person the words and images necessary to articulate their present-day needs. The Black Museum Movement was as much about storytelling as institution-building, and giving voice to the hopes and dreams, past, present and future, of the community. 

As Earl Moore, a former trustee for Chicago's DuSable Museum of African American History put it, "Most [museums] were endowed with money. Our institution was endowed with blood, sweat, and tears." 

As stewards of this great institution founded by Dr. Charles Wright, it's our continuing duty to contemplate, commemorate, and celebrate the blood, sweat and tears this museum has been endowed with. Each of us are bricks in the wall of this edifice that amplifies our stories for future generations. And we see this institutional relevance vindicated today in the way museums as a whole are moving towards embodying a community-centric focus. 

As we enter the final months of the year, it's fitting to take a deeper look at the world around us. I encourage everyone to take a second (and third) look at Say It Loud: Art, History, Rebellion, to revisit And Still We Rise, and to peruse our upcoming calendar of events. There's always something, whether a particular brushstroke or historical footnote, that can take us deeper into an artwork or provide a more nuanced understanding of an important moment in time. These experiences help feed our ever-present need of context for what's meaningful in our lives by illuminating our shared travails and triumphs. 

Through shared experience, The Wright Museum brings communities together – in dialogue, in communion, and in unity. In this, we create community, a commodity desperately in need. In 2017, it's readily apparent that change is still needed. In the face of continuing injustice and inequality, the radical empowerment of people engendered by the Black Museum Movement remains relevant today. It's our role to empower one another to continue moving towards the vision this country was founded upon. As Langston Hughes wrote in "Let America Be America Again:" 

O, let America be America again - 
The land that never has been yet -
And yet must be - the land where every man is free. 

Juanita Moore,
President & CEO

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Letter from the President, July 2017

I recently visited the California African American Museum's exhibition, No Justice, No Peace: LA 1992. Here in 2017 there's a startling symmetry: 25 years since the LA Uprising, and 50 years since the Detroit Rebellion, one of approximately 300 civil disturbances across the country that took place in the 1960s. As we prepare for the opening of our 50th anniversary commemorative exhibition, Say It Loud: Art, History, Rebellion, what struck me about the CAAM exhibit were the similarities in these histories – the marginalization of African Americans, the segregation and impoverishment of neighborhoods, the brutality of a justice system at odds with those it was sworn to serve.

Whether it's 25 or 50 years ago, important questions remain. What are the conditions that lead to rage and despair? Do we, as a society, have the fortitude necessary to confront the past? How do we, as a community, as a region, and as a society, heal?

Each question comes with an opportunity for action, for progress in the growth and renewal of our relationships with one another – individually, and collectively.

Be it 1967 or 1992 – then as in now – children grow up amidst the debris of history and wonder how things came to be. This year's commemoration marks an opportunity to engage in a process of discovery and dialogue long in need. If we don't learn from the lessons of the past, the cycle of disillusionment and despair will repeat. Instead, we must be enlightened, energized and spurred to action.

It is significant that so many organizations are marking the commemoration of the 1967 Rebellion. Developed in partnership with the Detroit Institute of Arts, The Wright's Say It Loud: Art, History, Rebellion, in tandem with its sister exhibition, Art of Rebellion: Black Art of the Civil Rights Movement, open July 23. It has been a wonderful collaboration, and will offer visitors a multilayered look at a subject fraught with historical significance. It is imperative these and the commemorative works of all of our many partner organizations reach as wide an audience as possible. The need for understanding, for acceptance, and for action is the reason for the myriad of exhibits, performances, poems, artworks, songs and stories, to be seen, heard and ingested. It's through this process that we'll come to understand our history, one another, and what meaningful action must entail.

The Wright's 50th anniversary commemoration began one year ago on July 23, 2016, with the unveiling of Kresge Eminent Artist Charles McGee's sculpture United We Stand. This was a call for unity.

Maya Angelou said: "History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again." Let us have the courage to face this history.

One year later that call, like the landmark, still stands. The time to heed its mandate and move forward is now.

Juanita Moore,
President & CEO

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