Center Prepares For Groundbreaking

doc4fe35f34014d0513557541.jpgBy KENYA KING (
Destined to solidify Atlanta’s place in civil and human rights, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights (NCCHR/The Center) recently unveiled an updated design and announced plans for its ground-breaking ceremony  on June 27.

NCCHR’s recent progress report capped off the acquisition of Phase I funding of $65 million for the Center. Invest Atlanta, formerly the Atlanta Development Authority, approved the monies through the Tax Allocation District funding, and over the next two years, implementation of construction elements will be launched in planned phases.

The 35,000-square-foot facility will feature a “central hub of action” with a set of hands surrounding it. “It’s a wonderful two-handed notion,” said Doug Shipman, CEO of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. He said that one side will face Ivan Allen Boulevard, and that the expansion will “wing on each side of the building over time.” The center will be located in Atlanta’s Pemberton Place next to Centennial Olympic Park. It is slated to open in summer of 2014.

“In a symbolic way, I think it’s really going to put Atlanta back in the forefront around the discussion of civil and human rights nationally and globally,” said Shipman. “I think it’s going to be the catalyst for a lot of activity that will benefit the city.”

Deborah Richardson, executive vice president for NCCHR, said that the NCCHR’s board of directors and leadership have worked hard to ensure the design will be “sustainable” and will “operate in the black.”

A definite allure to the NCCHR will be the treasured King Papers, which were donated to Morehouse in 2006. Morehouse still retains ownership and responsibility for archiving the coveted papers, but the NCCHR will serve as “the public display stop for them,” Shipman said.

“We basically will be the place that the public will come to see the papers,” he said. The center plans to showcase the King Papers in thematic concepts that correlate to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s work with the center’s programs and initiatives.

In addition to the King Papers, a production studio for broadcasting, an exhibit on lynching, and civil and human rights presentations by George C. Wolfe and Jill Savitt are in the works.

NCCHR expects to attract conventions and conferences with its boasted world-class facility and meeting spaces. There are plans to host speakers and film series, banquets and similar events.

Every year, NCCHR will also develop events around historic anniversaries such as the March on Washington, Black History, Women’s Herstory, Latino Heritage and others. Culminating its year of endeavors, in December, NCCHR will host activities for the anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Richardson, who grew up down the street from Dr. King’s father, “Daddy King,” expressed enthusiasm and a sentimental connection to the NCCHR and what it will offer to Atlanta and visitors.

“It’s about bringing the legacy of Atlanta’s unique role as the think tank to the minds and hearts of young people who never lived or experienced it. So I have a very personal commitment to the role that the center will play,” she said.

NCCHR intends to tackle issues in a contemporary way and use the Civil Rights Movement as a case study to help people understand current events and news, Richardson noted.

“We have a larger commitment to being out in our community providing programming through our broadcast facility to the nation and world, and being a resource for people who are never able to come to Atlanta. It’s about connecting with them. We live in a global society and so I am very confident and thrilled that the center will be able to live up to that,” said Richardson.

Shipman said that NCCHR will work as a partner with The King Center and The Carter Center. “If someone wants to delve deeply into Dr. King’s life, they would then take the streetcar over to The King Center,” said Shipman. The upcoming  Atlanta Streetcar project makes a way for visitors to easily commute from The King Center to Centennial Olympic Park area to tour important landmarks and places in the city.

“We see ourselves as telling kind of a broad story and the legacy of how the issues that were undertaken during the Civil Rights Movement and the technique continued in the Human Rights Movement,” Shipman said.

Shipman said his vision includes having authentic dialogue around human and civil rights issues that are not currently being discussed in Atlanta. “I want people to feel like we need to talk about what’s happening in North Africa around the Arab uprising and the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta is the place we want to do it, or we’re a company and we’re struggling with complex minerals and we want to have a session at the Center for Civil and Human Rights for our senior executives,” he shared.

In pinpointing Shipman’s measure for success, it’s all about helping people with their issues. “When people feel that they need to bring their issues to our center to talk about them, to work through them and to educate themselves on them, that’s when we know we’ve succeeded,” he said.

Richardson offered a parallel view of the center’s purpose and plans for its achievements. “Whatever people’s opinions are about the design, at the end of the day it’s about the work. It’s about what takes place within those walls and permeates out into the community. At the center, we have a really firm commitment that what happens within the four walls is really just the beginning.”

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