By GEORGE E. CURRY
In the hoopla surrounding Sunday’s dedication of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. statue on the National Mall in Washington, Harry E. Johnson Sr., the visionary and fundraising engine behind the project, will finally get his due. Placing Dr. King on the Mall was a project of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, but it was Johnson, a Houston attorney and former president of the fraternity, who made it all happen, raising more than $100 million.
In the excitement of placing a statue of the first African-American on the Mall, there are three stories that readers should be aware of, though few journalists, if any, will cover.
The first story is surprising. Among the million dollar-donors to the MLK memorial project, only two African Americans had joined that select club as of July, according to the list of donors compiled by the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation. The website list of all donors of a million dollars or more has been removed from the site. But records examined in July showed that Sheila Johnson-Newman, co-founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET), and Victor B. MacFarlane, a San Francisco real estate developer, were the only Blacks who had made personal or corporate contributions of $1 million or more.
Many Black stars hosted fundraisers or provided other support, but only MacFarlane and Johnson-Newman put up the super bucks. Missing in action were the big-name athletes and entertainers. I don’t have to list them – you know who they are.
It is also interesting to look at corporate donations. The General Motors Foundation, under the leadership of Rod Gillum, was in a class by itself, giving $10 million. It was followed by Tommy Hilfiger Corporate Foundation with a $5 million contribution. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the National Basketball Association each donated $3 million. The Walt Disney Company donated $2.7 million. Contributing $2 million each were the Coca-Cola Foundation, the Ford Motor Fund, MetLife Foundation, Toyota Foundation and the Verizon Foundation.
The federal government provided approximately $10 million and Alpha Phi Alpha, the driving force behind the King memorial, donated $3.4 million.
An additional 39 companies or individuals gave at least $1 million, including Delta Airlines, General Electric, Star Wars creator George Lucas, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).
The second story unlikely to be covered this week is the lack of donations from certain Fortune 100 companies.