It’s been years in a developmental stage but now the first phase of the Atlanta based National Center for Civil and Human Rights is underway.
Center CEO Doug Shipman talked to WABE about the vision, the mission and what separates the center from other similar Atlanta institutions.
Five years ago Doug Shipman became the center’s first employee.
His task as CEO is to guide the center’s mission.
“The purpose of the center is to link the legacy of the American civil rights movement which of course of Atlanta was in many ways the headquarters of, with contemporary civil and human rights issues”
Shipman says while the center embodies the past, it will also serve as a multi-purpose dwelling:
“It’s a performance space, it’s a broadcast space, and it’s an exhibition space. It’s a place for education,” says Shipman.
But Shipman cautions one to not think of the center as a museum.
“Museum, we don’t use the term because museum really is about the truth being locked away and never changing. We want the center to be changing as issues change and so it needs to respond to what’s happening today.”
From a historical perspective Atlanta is considered the headquarters of the Civil Rights Movement.
But there are two other internationally recognized entities already located in Atlanta.
Shipman says the head of the Carter Center once said, they’re the whole seller of human rights.
He doesn’t see the Carter Center as competition.
As for the Martin Luther KingJr. Centerfor Nonviolent Social Change, Shipman says the King Center talks about King’s life, King’s family and has been a place for training in what he calls King techniques and King nonviolence.
Another difference according to Shipman, is the specific demographic the center for civil and human rights wants to target.
“We really are aimed at the public. We’re not aimed at specialists, we’re not aimed at journalists, and we’re not aimed to academics. We’re aimed at a fifteen year old who says I’ve heard about what’s happening in Egypt but I really don’t know what it means. That’s our core audience.”
Issues such as women’s rights, immigration, human trafficking and lesbian/gay/bisexual and transgender rights are four core areas the center will address.
But Shipman is adamant the center is not to be an advocacy organization.
Instead experts, academics and artists will be invited to address these issues in a civil manner.
On Memorial Day in 2014 the National Center for Civil and Human Rights is expected to open.
The total cost for the project is 100-million dollars.