Museum deserves support

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 8, 2007

To the Editor:

I just finished reading your recent article on the $1 million appropriation that Rep. Artur Davis presented to the city for the construction of the National Parks Service Interpretive Center.

I found several points about these newly acquired funds and this project disturbing.

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The first thing that disturbed me was the fact that the Mayor Perkins and the Rev. F.D. Reese were so ecstatic about this project and preserving the history of the Voting Rights Movement, yet neither gentlemen have shown an active interest in working with the National Voting Rights Museum, which has been in the city for some 13 years.

I have seen both men at events we host when there’s a name to drop like Obama or Clinton, but the other 11 months of the year, not as much.

I have personally volunteered at the Museum since its inception and have seen the marked decrease in support from the City of Selma in that time period.

Dare I say even Mayor Smitherman, upon seeing the type of revenue the city generated during the Bridge Crossing Jubilee, allotted $30,000 to the museum to go towards the four day festival.

Since Mayor Perkins has been in office the museum has yet to receive more than $5,000 – and has had to practically beg for that.

The Annual Celebration of the Right to Vote was started by the National Voting Rights Museum and contrary to popular belief, the Museum foots the bill for the entire event.

We have some supporters like Alabama Power who faithfully come through, but other than that, it the small donations and contributions of time and creativity that make that event successful.

Yet, every year when those thousands of people descend upon Selma there is not a hotel room to be found in the city limits, the restaurants are full and the businesses are booming – is that not a benefit tot he city?

Many people complain about the National Voting Rights Museum for a variety of reasons.

Some of you are so afraid that you might inadvertently support Rose Sanders, that you stay clear of the Museum and all of our activities and that’s just sad.

There are few of you who have the courage, selflessness or willingness to sacrifice it takes to create what has been created here, because if you did you’d recognize it in others like Rose Sanders and Joanne Bland who worked here since the doors opened.

And furthermore, there were a host of other people involved in the creation of this museum whose history so many of you claim you love and want to preserve.

Have you forgotten Mother Marie Foster? Marching Mama Lilly Brown? Albert Turner? They’re all gone now, but they loved this Museum and put there heart and souls into making sure it was a success.

As for this Parks Service project, I also find it interesting that “veterans” of the Movement like Reese would continue to support a project that blatantly mislead the people of Lowndes County when they were embarking on the very same thing.

Lowndes County has a rich movement history both connected and unconnected to what happened here in Selma.

The people of that community were promised that their story, the real story would be told in that “interpretive center’/museum and it was not.

The story of what happened here in Selma is what is housed in that place, not the story of tent city or the Lowndes County Freedom Party or SNCC … ask the veterans of the movement from there, they were completely dissatisfied.

Regardless of what you think, this museum is supported by the efforts of everyday people like you.

We have our faults, no one is above reproach. But, we are making every effort to correct those flaws. We do what we can with what we have – that’s what you call a labor of love and those of us who come here everyday and work for little or no pay, do so because we love the museum – not for our egos, not to see our name in the paper, but because at the end of the day we know that if we don’t do this work now and do it right, no one else will.

Tarana Burke