It would be an easy thing to dismiss the fiasco between the city of Greensboro and the International Civil Rights Museum as a complete disaster and just shut the whole thing down.
The most recent chapter in a saga that literally goes back a generation concerns a big chunk of money — $1.5 million — as a forgivable loan from the city to the museum, a wonderful deal in a long string of them for the gobstopper of companies and nonprofits that control the museum that began forming in 1993 with Sit-In Movement Inc.
And now, as $750,000 has been handed off, the whole thing is devolving into a quagmire of ineptitude.
The museum missed a deadline for audits, which were necessary because of issues with transparency and bookkeeping in the past. The city cut a check without a signed contract, and council is making noises about getting the money back.
Meanwhile, ICRM Director George Clopton, who took the post after Skip Alston resigned it in August 2013, quietly stepped down… before the money changed hands though City Council did not know that at the time.
People have been whispering about hinky goings-on at the museum for 20 years, though nothing has ever been substantiated. Still, the museum has failed to hit its initial projected number — 200,000 visitors — every year of its existence.
But the thing is, everyone knows we need this museum — save, perhaps, for whatever vile racist strain remains buried beneath our modern civilization. The Greensboro Sit-In was arguably the most important thing that has ever happened here. It needs to be honored. It needs to be commemorated. It needs to be remembered.
And, in this instance anyway, it looks to be the city that stepped in it.
Who the hell gives out $750,000 without a signed contract?
No museum can exist without outside funding, with the possible exception of Graceland. The city should be obligated to kick in some money for operations because the building’s very existence is essential to the character of Greensboro.
But the city can’t be expected to carry the full burden.
Here’s a reasonable compromise: Greensboro ponies up $500,000 a year, about a third what the Greensboro Coliseum gets, and for the rest the ICRM is on its own: fundraisers, museum guilds, membership drives. whatever it takes to make ends meet.
Oh, and we’re gonna need to see those books.