Sherrods to speak at fundraiser

ALBANY -- Charles and Shirley Sherrod will present reflections on the civil rights movement in Southwest Georgia on Friday night during the Albany Civil Rights Institute's Community Night and Fundraiser.

The Sherrods have been fixtures in the Southwest Georgia movement for decades and are sure to generate lively discussion.

ACRI Excutive Director Lee Formwalt said the Sherrods are not charging an appearance fee but approached him with the idea for the fundraiser.

The event will begin with a catered reception at 6 p.m. followed by the program at 7:30.

Tickets for the event, one of the ACRI's most important fundraisers of the year, are $25 each and may be purchased at the ACRI on Whitney Avenue or the Albany Welcome Center on Front Street.

April Ryan, TV One Washington Watch commentator and White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, will moderate the event.

"This event is very important to us, especially since revenue from the King Day Banquet is down from last year," Formwalt said. "This will help make up for the shortfall.

"If we sell out the 300 seats in the Old Mt. Zion Church, we will make $7,500. All of that money will go to ACRI, since expenses are being covered by our sponsors, TV One and Mediacom."

Formwalt and the ACRI are hoping to capitalize on a recent surge in interest in the institute and museum.

"There definitely is increased interest," he said. "Last year we had over 5,000 visitors, more than double the previous year. Already in the first two months of this year, we have had over 2,200 visitors. Each month so far this year we have broken all previous attendance records.

"So we are well on our way to surpassing last year's record."

Formwalt then added, "We're hoping that growing public interest through expanded programming will bring in more memberships and more philanthropic support for ACRI."

The institute's director also casts an eye down the road for ACRI and the museum.

"In five years, I envision an expansion of staff to include an archivist, curator and education coordinator," Formwalt said. "The overall professionalization of the staff will allow us to better meet the needs of visitors, scholars, teachers and school children.

"We plan to write several major grant proposals from federal agencies and national organizations that will allow us to achieve these goals."