This year marks the 45th year of existence for the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, and we’re pleased to report that the institution, the world’s largest of its kind, is more robust than ever. Highlights from the past year include:
• Partnering with over 90 organizations, including the Detroit International Jazz Festival, Arab American National Museum, and Wayne State University, to present a diverse array of programming
• Offering over 150 educational and public programs
• Presentation of the Smithsonian’s Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing: How the Apollo Theater Shaped American Entertainment and the National Conference of Artist’s Art of the Masters: A Survey of African American Images, 1980 – 2000 traveling exhibitions
• Organization of the Crowning Glories: Status, Style and Self-Expression exhibition as well as 5 contemporary artist exhibits
• A complete redesign of the museum’s website and expansion into the social media realm, including a Facebook fan page which has grown to over 10,000 fans in less than 12 months
• National media attention from NPR, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and BET.com
• Hosting performances by national and international artists such as Third World, Nikki Giovanni, Daniel Beaty, K’Jon, Kindred the Family Soul, and Sarah Jones
• Esteemed visitors, including former President Chissano of Mozambique, actor/writer/director/producer Glynn Turman, musical artist and entrepreneur Usher, and most importantly, each and every one of our members and supporters from the general public.
Additionally, we were proud to be chosen as the location for one of Mayor Dave Bing’s Detroit Works Project town hall meetings, and for the Living Cities Foundation, a consortium of 21 of the world’s largest foundations and financial institutions, to announce 17 million dollars in investment being made available to Midtown Detroit. Events such as these underscore the importance of this museum not just as a major cultural institution, but also a center of community in this great city.
In these challenging times, we continue to make the adjustments necessary to be economically sustainable. However, the museum cannot be judged by a balance sheet alone. We must be “in the black” and have an impact – these two are not mutually exclusive, and indeed must be mutually intertwined: to create the sustainability necessary we must engage and inform on an exponential level. Our mission to educate is sacred; there is no question about that. However, everything else must be open to discussion. Our service to the community is at the core of what we do. We’ll continue to look for new and innovative ways to partner with others to expand our collective reach and further our aim of celebrating African American history and culture.
The “great recession” has confronted us all with the need to reset, at the organizational, city, state and national levels. History confirms that we are innovators, and we must draw from that strength, now more than ever. We need everyone at the table bringing all that they have – money, time, talents and strategic thinking. Every generation must come with their best, and with that, we’ll not just get by, we will succeed and prosper.
This is the mindset that will help us not only face but overcome the present adversity, just as our ancestors and elders did with prior, seemingly insurmountable challenges. We can draw strength from that history that is all of ours, and recognize the amazing resiliency that has allowed African Americans to overcome slavery, racism and disenfranchisement and reach the corridors of power and the highest office in the land. The toughness that is needed now is the grit that is woven into the fabric of this great city, of this country, and in African American culture. And it is not just this institution or the African American community that needs it – it is all of us, this entire nation.
It is in these times that the voices of history in this museum can help each of us find that strength and resiliency to overcome our present circumstances. The stories that come out of here, as well as enter with each of our visitors, are the keys to unlocking our inherent greatness. More than ever, we need to look in that mirror of self-reflection and know, at the deepest levels of our being and as a core of confidence, that “we still got it.”
Thank you for your continued support and dedication.
Very truly yours,
Elizabeth (“Betty”) Brooks
Chairperson, Board of Trustees
President & CEO