ALBANY, Ga. -- The Albany Civil Rights Institute, touting recent increases in visitors and membership, opened it annual spring fundraising campaign with renewed vigor with an eye cast optimistically toward the future.
"Our membership and the number of visitors continue to increase," ACRI Executive Director Lee Formwalt said. "Since December of 2009 we have more than tripled our membership and the more that 5,000 visitors in 2010 doubles 2009's numbers. In the first three months of 2011, close to 3,000 visitors came to ACRI -- 500 more than came in the entire year of 2009.
"We are on a roll as more and more southwest Georgia residents and travelers from outside our corner of the state cross our threshold."
Formwalt said that many people come to see the ACRI's permanent exhibition on the "Long Movement" that stretches from slavery to the present. The ARCI's "Monthly Community Night" has also been a draw.
In November visitors came to hear two of Albany's 1961 Freedom Riders. In December, they heard Japanese American historian and internment camp detainee Donald Hata express his gratitude to African Americans in Albany and elsewhere for showing Japanese Americans how to stand up to the government.
In the new year, a record-breaking crowd of more than 200 jammed into ACRI's multipurpose room to hear four African American members of the class of 1967 describe integrating Albany High School in 1965-1967. In February, Peggy King Jorde described her efforts to save the colonial era African Burial Ground in New York City and turn it into a National Park Monument. Southwest Georgia civil rights icons Charles and Shirley Sherrod told their story at an ACRI fundraiser in March which brought in more than $5,000.
And last month both C.T. Vivian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Hank Klibanoff addressed ACRI audiences.
"ACRI is making a difference in the intellectual and cultural life of our community and at the same time dealing with the tough issue of race that has shaped us as a people," Formwalt said. "Making this important contribution to Albany's civic culture is expensive and we need your help to continue this worthwhile program."
Formwalt urged those able to make a substantial gift to consider the institute's Legacy Stained Glass Window and Legacy Pew Program. Those giving $10,000 we will have a plaque acknowledging their gift placed next to one of the beautiful stained glass windows in Old Mt. Zion Church.
For $5,000 a plaque will be placed on one of the gorgeously refinished pine and heart pine pews in Old Mt. Zion. For a gift of $150 givers can have their name or the name of a loved one or that of a civil rights participant or leader inscribed on a brick paver and placed in Freedom Plaza in front of Old Mt. Zion Church.
Donation forms may be picked up at the ACRI on 323 Whitney Ave. Gifts may also be made online at albanycivilrightsinstitue.org. or call 229-432-1698 for more information.