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City Council Approves $250K in Funding for BCRI

By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times

The Birmingham City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved $250,000 in emergency funds for Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) as the institute grapples with the impact of COVID-19.

Officials with the BCRI, which has been closed since March 15, said the money will be used for operational costs and enhanced virtual experiences for visitors who can no longer make in-person trips.

“The financial impact of being closed has forced us to leverage the tools we have today around technology,” said Isaac Cooper, BCRI Board Chair. “We’ve been able to solidify a partnership with Apple that will let us leverage virtual reality. We’ve had to identify the business model of today and reach people without them walking into the institute.”

That money will be paid in four monthly installments of $62,500. Under the agreement, the BCRI will:

  • Implement a reopening plan and a sustainable fundraising strategy
  • Develop a plan for expense reduction
  • Explore alternative means of engaging the community to revive interest and awareness of the unique offerings of the BCRI

Council President William Parker said it’s important to help BCRI look for new innovative ways to showcase the museum.

“We’re competing with other Civil Rights tourism locations across the Southeast and we want to stay competitive,” he said.

Cooper said COVID-19 has forced the BCRI to assess ways to create an experience outside of the walls. “We’ve also been focused on being a living institute because Mrs. Odessa Woolfolk, the founder, her vision was to make sure of that. A museum can have a start date and end date but when you have a living institute that’s ongoing education so that is what we’ve been materializing during the pandemic.”

For more information on the BCRI visit www.bcri.org.

In other matters, the council unanimously approved Robert Earl Kelly and Ashby Pate to the Birmingham Airport Authority Board of Directors.

Kelly, founded Kelly Road Builders in 1999, one of the largest road milling companies in the Southeast and he is the founder of Kelly Natural Gas Pipeline, was reappointed to a second six-year term effective July 30 and Pate a partner with the law firm of Lightfoot, Franklin & White, LLC, was appointed to a six-year term beginning July 30. He replaces Edgar Max whose term expires July 29.