On today's date in The Beacon archives, we published:•Occupy The Holiday’s Three days of Thanksgiving! (2011)
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Posted by The Dean of Cincinnati
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In some ways, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is a museum about activism. After all, the Underground Railroad itself was a network of activists working to free those who had been unjustly enslaved by a crooked American economic system. And while the Center itself frequently gets criticized for its own economic situation, what can be said for its work as an institution of activism? How has the Center networked with its natural allies? Has it worked towards the kind of justice that underscores the very notion of “freedom” encapsulated by the museum’s very name? We checked with the president of the Cincinnati branch of the NAACP, since that group seems like a natural ally for a freedom center commemorating the Underground Railroad.
“The Freedom Center must do a better job to reach out to their most obvious partners,” said branch president Christopher Smitherman. “This has not been done well.”
Indeed, even a cursory glance at the Center’s web page entitled “Take Action” showcases a general feeling of disconnect from Cincinnati’s community. Other than a very small number of community forums hosted each year, the Freedom Center’s best suggestions about “taking action” include volunteering at the Freedom Center, or starting a blog.
For those who really click deep into the page, you might find this link, where you can apparently fill out a form to volunteer for a list of Cincinnati agencies—including the NAACP—but one must wonder if such email services are particularly effective. For example, when you click to sign up as a volunteer, you get a form with this header: “We ask for contact information so that we can provide it to the agency that you are interested in helping. Likewise, we will give you the agency contact information and suggest that you contact them yourself as soon as possible. We’ll send confirmation emails to you and the agency.”
In other words, they suggest we call the agency for which we would like to volunteer—and this is the Freedom Center’s contribution to activism in its own backyard.
“I have been concerned about the depth of the content of the center,” said Cincinnati NAACP president Christopher Smitherman. “It must be expanded. If the center is going to survive it must include its natural partners and more comprehensive content that is relevant to its constituents.”
Some may find it ironic that the leader of the local organization dedicated to African American civil rights feels disconnected from a multi-million dollar museum dedicated to African American civil rights.
“I have been very concerned about the Freedom Center’s financials and their approach on gaining new financial resources,” added Smitherman, perhaps referring to the recent attention given to stories like this CityBeat blog item.
“Partnerships and collaboration are the keys to a successful strategy for the center,” concluded Smitherman. “This includes grassroots institutions and grassroots people.”
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