Thursday, May 15, 2014

Hard Conversations

That girl to the left is me - age 20 or so. I was sitting on the front campus of Georgia College & State University, already a junior in college, studying to be a journalist.

I wanted to change the world. I wanted to complete my degree in Broadcast Journalism and travel the world, exposing injustice and highlighting life's little miracles.

I'm 41 now, a whole other lifetime later - and I still want to change the world, at least my little corner of the world. Try as I might, I can't quite seem to walk away from exposing my community's injustices and little miracles.

I did achieve that journalist's dream, and later I transitioned to work in nonprofits. At 39, I was able to mix two worlds I loved - art + nonprofit. As many of you know, I am the Director of Sales & Marketing for the Tubman African American Museum.

Aside from that title, I am still just a girl who wants to make a difference. I am incredibly lucky that I get to not only make an impact on my community, I get paid to do it. 

Unfortunately, I find myself backed into a corner. My museum was hit with some very hard information and it could potentially cause serious problems.

We've seen it time and time again - government and corporate spending/donations dwindling away. I understand that. You can't work in nonprofit as long as I have and not fall victim to this. I've also experienced life unemployed - both are absolute dark times, for certain. 

My museum just found out that the Mayor has proposed cutting all money to the museum. That means $250,000 would be eliminated in about 6 weeks. That's 40% of our operating budget. (that's what helps keep the doors open.) Let me repeat - this decision will be voted on in 6 weeks. As wonderful as we are, we are 99.9% not likely to raise a quarter of million dollars in just 6 weeks.... unless our commissioners vote in favor of reinstating this money.

Not only is it terrifying for me personally - it's terrible for our community. It's such a short sighted move. I'll tell you why - this community NEEDS the museum to not only contribute to the quality of life, but there is a definite need to promote the art, history and culture of the African American community.

How many African American museums can you name? How many serve as broad an audience as we do? How many are located in the thick of where the Civil War - Civil Rights - Integration - and a whole slew of activities took place? If we don't tell the story... who will? 

So many people do not value the arts, and it all goes back to education and exposure. I can assure you, if you took music, art, theater, dance, and a list of other amazing activities, there would be absolutely no reason to live. When I say music - I mean even the music you listen to on the radio. When I say art, I even mean the clothes you wear, to the jewelry you buy, to the very design of your car. When I say theater - I mean the movies you watch, the tv shows you are addicted to, and when I say dance - I mean the most exhilarating movement you can possibly use to express. Of course I mean the classics (art/live theater/orchestra/etc,) but I want to drive home that message that you are SURROUNDED by art. It's all a part of the creative process, and if my museum does not survive this, a piece of that creative process dies.

Our museum was founded by Father Richard Keil. Richard has since left the priesthood, but it was the priesthood that was the catalyst for events he would witness that would create this museum. He was a farm boy from Wisconsin, and eventually was assigned to rural Alabama/Mississippi during the Civil Rights era. He saw atrocities, he witnessed injustice, he made a decision early on that human rights were for all people, regardless of color. When he was moved to Macon, Georgia to work as the priest at St. Peter Claver, he eventually decided to put his money down on an old dilapidated building downtown, and turned it into a museum to celebrate the culture of African Americans. 

Did I mention he was a white man? Yes, he was - but that doesn't matter.

30 some years later, here we face a potential issue. Of course, as with everything, it goes back to money. I can only raise awareness so much - but I can't make you care. You might think, "Hey... we are like 40 years past the Civil Rights era... let's move on." If that is true, why did I receive hate mail at work after a television interview? Don't remember? Let me show you - click HERE.

It still exists - which means we have a looooooong way to go. How better to tell the story of the struggles and triumphs of this issue than with a museum dedicated to it. We have to understand the past so that we don't repeat it. 

Again, I can't make anyone vote a certain way. I can't make you write to your commissioners. I can't make you buy a membership, or organize a rally, or even read this blog - but I can ask. 

Do what you can .... with what you have.... where you are. 

If you want to understand what I am talking about... click HERE. (That's detailed info.)

Personally, I'm trying really hard to fight like hell. I want this museum to succeed, with or without me. I want this community to succeed - but a decision to pass this budget without reinstating the $250,000 would be detrimental.  I will be fine... I always am. But for once, it's time to roll up our sleeves and decide what's important. 

Where do you stand, and are you brave enough to stand up and fight for it? 

PS - though I may work for the museum, this is in no way the reflection or opinion of the museum. This is me - just sharing what I feel is the right thing to do. No one has permission to use anything I have said as a response from the museum, because it is not that. This is simply a Macon-Bibb County, tax paying resident voicing her opinion on a personal blog. 

1 comment:

Bossy Betty said...

Your heart and soul shows here. I do what I can to support the museums in my county--the little ones are the ones with the most passion and yet they are often overlooked.


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