Crusader Staff Report
The DuSable Museum of African American History is pushing forward in the wake of a big shakeup Memorial Day weekend that was sparked by seven resignations from its influential board of trustees, including Chance the Rapper and his father Ken Bennett.
The resignations hit America’s oldest Black museum hard as the institution’s busy summer schedule got underway, but DuSable CEO Perri Irmer released a statement days before, hinting that the members were going to make a move.
“In the coming days you may hear that we have had a few trustees resign from the board,” Irmer said in an email sent to DuSable staff Friday night. “Although we are sorry to see dedicated trustees depart, we understand that the mission of the DuSable Museum is more important now than ever before, and we will take this opportunity to continue to build our board of trustees and focus our efforts on the present—and the future—of this great institution,” Irmer wrote.
The resignations have stirred speculation about the museum, which is owned and managed by the Chicago Park District. DuSable officials have been quiet about the exodus and those who have resigned aren’t explaining why they left the museum board.
On May 26, Chance the Rapper tweeted, “The DuSable Museum is an iconic institution and the 2nd EVER African American history museum. It was an immense honor to serve on the board the past year and the ONLY reason I’m leaving is I got too busy and couldnt make the meetings. I will continue to serve @SocialWorks_Chi board.”
In addition to Chance the Rapper and his father, other board members who resigned are Vice Chairman Eric Whitaker, a physician/investor and close friend of former President Barack Obama; Wilbur Milhouse III, CEO of Milhouse Engineering & Construction in Chicago; Vice Chairman Kimberly McCullough-Starks, CEO of Platinum Public Strategies in Chicago; and Michael Gibson. Board Chair Joyce Johnson-Miller tendered her resignation and will stay on through July 6. The other six resignations are effective immediately.
As of Wednesday, May 30, the names of the former board members were still on DuSable’s website.
There was speculation that the resignations were part of a power move. The resignations also come as the Obama Foundation moves ahead to build the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park after winning approval from the Chicago City Council.
In the wake of the resignations, the DuSable released a statement.
“We are grateful to all of our DuSable trustees, those remaining on the board and those who are departing…[we] thank them for their dedication and service to this great institution, and have been assured of their continued support of the mission of DuSable Museum. That mission – to educate all people through African American history, art and culture — is more important than ever before, and we are in a climate of change and transformation. We will take this opportunity to continue to build our board, a process that’s already underway, and we’re excited about the changes to come. Founded by Dr. Margaret Burroughs in 1961, the DuSable Museum of African American History is the nation’s oldest independent Black museum, a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate since 2016, and an icon not only for our African-American community but all of Chicago. We are a recognized institutional leader and a major component of the renaissance of Chicago’s South Side. Most nonprofits, especially arts and culture organizations, are struggling to raise funds and we are no different. We are driving forward and focusing our efforts, building upon our amazing recent accomplishments and successes, and moving steadfastly towards the future.”
The museum is moving forward with its annual fundraiser, “Night of 100 Stars,” a gala scheduled for June 23 at the recently opened Marriott Marquis, located at the intersection of Prairie and Cermak. This year, the museum will honor educator, philanthropist and the mother of Rapper Common, Dr. Mahalia Ann Hines; CEO of Happyness and author Chris Gardner; and producer, writer, and artist Vic Mensa.
The DuSable is also preparing to launch its summer “Movies in the Park” on June 16 in the outdoor Sunken Garden, where the biopic “Marshall,” about the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, will be shown.