PUBLISHER'S PEACEDuSable Museum Must
There has been some very interesting dialog going on from one side
about the future of the DuSable Museum of African American History over the last
week. And it has dug up some very hurtful and past concerned issues as it
relates to the University of Chicago and the Southside's black community.
Currently, there has been ongoing Facebook discussions; aligned phone
chatter, and as recently as this past Monday, an actual meeting to outline
certain people's dissatisfaction with the notion that the beloved DuSable Museum
was up for auction.
When the alleged idea surfaced of the DuSable being taken over by the
University of Chicago, I was confused and dumbfounded. This was after Robert Blackwell,
the now former President & CEO of the DuSable, contacted me to express his
thoughts. Because of our decade or so friendship, and him being one of my
trusted mentors, Blackwell felt compelled to reach out to me to tell his story.
And he was furious!
After my five years as managing editor and founder of TBTNews, I've
learned to try and get as much accurate information as possible before I
comment, especially on an issue so impactful. I want to make sure that each side
of the story has been told, if possible. So, my first call after talking in
length to Mr. Blackwell was to U of C, since I happen to have a longstanding
relationship with them, as well.
I'm contracted to deliver news and information about their many
initiatives taking place behind the walls of the massive structure. I
professionally allocate them coverage to tell the story of their over 200 black
collaborative partners that they fund or support through multiple programs.
Never do I attempt to tell their story or wave their flag.
I will say this publicly, which I stated on numerous occasions to the
main players involved in this legion of misinformation, that I met with the U of
C leadership last week. After my meeting, I expressed to several people that the
University has absolutely no interest in possessing, owning or managing the
historic Museum. They are open to help with some strategic financial support,
but they do not want to take over Margaret Burroughs'
landmark institution - at all!
This all started with an internal memo scripted by Theaster Gates,
which was his wish list in what a partnership with the DuSable could look like.
Gates also sits on the board of DuSable, along with being a professor at U of C.
The University had no knowledge or input into Gate's Works of Words. After
the memo was revealed, an individual decided that he wanted to make this
internal memo public, which is how these unwanted conversations started. And
when blood is perceived to be spilled, the sharks will circle the so-called
wounded animal hoping to feed.
Here are two official letters delivered to me personally last evening
to match what I stated before about the University having no interest or plans
for a massive landmark take over:
Theaster Gates. I wrote this document as an artist, Board Member/Executive
Committee Member of the DuSable Museum, and resident of the South Side of
Chicago. The content and ambition is based on my experience as an artist and my
vision of the South Side as a world class arts and culture destination, with the
DuSable being a leading force in representing and celebrating Black culture and
I wrote and
submitted this as a white paper in advance of conferring with the people listed.
It is a preliminary vision document that was not to be circulated beyond the
Executive Committee of the Board of the DuSable Museum. After sitting on the
Museum’s Board for a little under a year, I have deepened my understanding of
the Museum’s potential for curatorial and programmatic growth and look forward
to providing continued support and expertise in imagining DuSable’s future
University’s statement: As one of the most
significant history museums in Chicago and the nation, the DuSable Museum is a
valued neighbor to the University of Chicago. Many University faculty members
engage in collaborative research and projects with the DuSable Museum and other
cultural institutions as part of their scholarship and involvement in the
submitted to the museum board by Theaster Gates was not a University of Chicago
proposal. The University supports the engagement of our faculty with independent
museums like DuSable, however the University leadership was not aware of the
document. In addition to being a UChicago faculty member, Gates is a DuSable
Museum trustee, an independent artist, and an involved South Side community
member. The University supports the autonomy of our faculty to collaborate with
external organizations, and we understand that these were Theaster’s preliminary
ideas to his fellow board members.
The issue, as far as I'm concerned, revolves around one thing! What
are the so-called middle class and wealthy Negroes gonna do to preserve the
legacy of one of their gifted treasures? Former board member and president, Mr.
Blackwell or others, should not have to go to the University of Chicago or any
other outside funding source to help sustain a black MECCA.
The community should put up or shut up! Show DuSable the money -
purchase memberships! And the board should utilize its cash reserve to promote
the Museum as a destination of cultural relevance in order to increase
memberships and visitors. This is how (we) save the DuSable Museum! Peace and One
I Write to
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