Tuesday, February 19, 2008

NCRM In Crisis: Is The NCRM Stonewalling The Lorraine Civil Rights Museum Foundation???

Attached is the latest letter from the Chairperson of the Lorraine Motel Civil Rights Museum Community Oversight Committee to Beverly Robinson, Director of the National Civil Rights Museum.

The letter details how the corporate dominated board of the private foundation which controls the museum has once again failed to act in good faith with the community.

Come to the foundation's board meeting on Thursday, February 21, at 4 p.m. at the museum (450 Mulberry Street), during which voting will occur on board memberships. Join with the people who are fighting to liberate the museum from corporate domination and return it to the people and its original vision.

January 30, 2008

SENT VIA FACSIMILES TO 901/521-9740, 901/227-6845 & VIA U.S. REGULAR MAIL

Ms. Beverly Robertson, Executive Director

The Lorraine Civil Rights Museum Foundation

c/o National Civil Rights Museum

450 Mulberry Street

Memphis, TN 38103

Mr. Gregory Duckett

Senior Vice President, Corporate Counsel

Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation

350 N. Humphreys Blvd.

Memphis, TN 38120

Dear Ms. Robertson and Mr. Duckett:

Please be advised that the purpose of this letter is to confirm in writing the main points of discussion and/or agreements during the meeting on January 25, 2008 between the both of you, as Representatives from the Lorraine Civil Rights Museum Foundation, and us (Representatives from the Lorraine Civil Rights Museum Community Oversight Committee and Representatives from the Tennessee Legislative Black Caucus). We were advised that Mr. Herb Hilliard, Chair of the Nominating Committee would not able to attend.

NOMINATIONS FROM LCRMCOC. The final list of Nominations for a Diverse NCRM Board of Directors was submitted to the both of you from the Lorraine Civil Rights Museum Community Oversight Committee (LCRMCOC) Representatives. Along with the list of nominations, we submitted biographical information on each of our nominees, with the exception of Minister Suhkura Yahwah, who came to the meeting and agreed to submit his biographical information directly to the Museum on Monday, January 28, 2008; his name appeared on our final list of nominees. During the meeting, the various nominees were discussed, particularly those nominees identified as the 19 top-tier nominees from our list of twenty-eight (28) names. We also provided you with a Resolution from the Memphis Democratic Club submitting names for consideration to the Board of Directors.

Next, we discussed your two (2) page outline submitted for our information and review. The outline included, inter alia, the size of the current board (31 members), the 3 expiring terms, the increase in the size of the board from 31 to 34 members, the total number of 6 board vacancies to be filled, and the names submitted to you directly via website, board member recommendations and other recommendations from various other sources. You also provided for our information a detailed list of all the current board members, their addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, etc. However, it did not include the requested information of their board term expiration dates and/or the dates on which they will rotate off of the board. You agreed to provide same.

Notwithstanding the information I had received from Herb Hilliard during a telephone conversation with him on January 16, 2008 that there would be approximately ten (10) vacancies (i.e., 4 from the Memorandum of Understanding and 6 from board members rotating-off), you reiterated that there are a total of only six (6) vacancies to be filled at this time.

Furthermore, during the discussions, you advised that it is absolutely
essential that one of the 6 vacancies to be filled must be a nominee who is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or who has an accounting background/experience and skills.

SELECTION PROCESS. We discussed the selection process. We were advised that the selection process includes, inter alia, the nomination committee, which is composed of 6 members from the Board of Directors. It will review and evaluate all 64 names that were submitted on or before the deadline date of January 25, 2008, as well as the biographical information provided on each nominee. The nomination committee has the discretion to contact any of the nominees if it believes additional information is necessary or needed to complete the selection process. The nomination committee will then submit to the Board of Directors, at its annual meeting on February 21, 2008, a total of 6 recommended nominees to fill the current 6 vacancies and that it is generally perfunctory for the Board of Directors to accept the nomination committee's recommendations.

During the meeting, we expressed serious concerns that the selection process as described above did not go far enough to include the community's input and participation. We also expressed the community's fear that none of its top tier nominees would be selected, notwithstanding your assurances that we should trust the process and trust the ability of the nomination committee members to be fair, objective, open-minded and sincere in complying with the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

Additionally, we discussed various ideas and ways to open the selection process to include more community participation in selecting the final six nominations to be submitted at the February 21st annual meeting. As a result of the discussion, you agreed to seriously consider adding two additional steps to the selection process.

The First Suggested Step to Add to the Selection Process would be to select from the 64 names submitted, a short list or a semi-final list of nominees. The persons who made the short list or semi-final list of nominees would have the option to appear before the nominating committee or their designated spokespersons and make a final appeal or plea as to why they should be selected and what strengths, skills, and abilities they would bring to the board of directors.

The Second Suggested Step to Add to the Selection Process would be to disclose the names of the final 6 nominees a week before the February 21st annual meeting. It was agreed that you would contact us as soon as a decision was made on whether to include one or both of the additional suggested steps to the selection process in order to allow more community participation in the overall spirit of openness in moving toward the goal of have a more diverse Board of Directors. We urge you to add the two additional steps.

It was clarified during the meeting, that nominations can be made from the floor at the February 21st annual meeting by any board member present for the full body to consider and vote upon in filling the 6 vacancies.

During the meeting, we also discussed the possibility of choosing nominees from our list to fill any future vacancies that will occur, in light of the fact that there were so many strong candidates nominated and only 6 vacancies available to be filled. You advised that this was not possible and that each selection process begins anew. However, you were open to the idea of utilizing our list of nominees for consideration in filling positions on the "Friends of the Museum" and the National Advisory Council.

Lastly, we presented to you a letter, dated October 22, 1992, from the former Executive Director of the NCRM on the NCRM letterhead, stating that Judge D'Army Bailey had been voted by the Board of Directors to hold the title of President Emeritus of the Foundation. We asked that you give serious consideration to him serving on the Board of Directors in the capacity of President Emeritus, with the rights, duties and responsibilities that accompany such illustrious title. You advised that you would be happy to authenticate the letter, to research its legal significance and to advocate for the implementation of our recommendation.

At the conclusion of the meeting, it was our understanding that the nomination committee intends to expedite the selection process and will get back with us as soon as possible regarding the recommended changes to the selection process. I can be reached at 901/327-7977 or

by e-mail at lsmith74@bellsouth.net. Thank you very much for the valuable dialogue and your cooperation in working together toward reaching our shared and common goals of making the National Civil Rights Museum the best in these United States and elsewhere around the world.

LAURICE E.SMITH, Chairperson


cc: Dr. Benjamin Hooks, Herb Hilliard, State Rep. Barbara Cooper and G. A. Hardaway, Cynthia Pelak, et al.

*Listen To Judge D'Army Bailey Discuss The NCRM In Crisis On W.E. A.L.L. B.E. Radio:

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