Hearne: Birmingham Negro Leagues Museum Controversy More Complex Than Reported

tumblr_m1qf60x2xz1qm76qjo1_400About that Negro Leagues museum controversy Kansas City Star readers were treated to yesterday…

For starters it’s a rehash of a story that ran on Alabama.com last fall. Minus, of course, some of the positive points the proposed Birmingham Negro Leagues museum will have that KC’s Negro League’s museum doesn’t.

“What we don’t want to happen is a museum just for the sake of history,” says Chuck Faush, chief of staff to Birmingham Mayor William Bell.  “It has to be living, breathing history.”

A museum with fewer static artifacts like KC’s and “more focus on interactive technology than stagnant displays,” Fausch says. “We’re taking a 21st Century approach that historians and enthusiasts alike are going to want to be interactive. It’s going to have to be an experience.”

That’s undoubtedly one reason Kansas City’s Negro Leagues museum is worried.

And opening up a satellite branch in a former YMCA on the Paseo hardly seems a cure.

KC’s Negro Leagues museum can barely keep its doors open and in the black at its main branch – and then only because of the grant money it receives. Who’s going to want to junket to a YMCA however many blocks away?

And once Birmingham is up and running will the grant money KC is receiving have to be shared with Birmingham? Will it boil down to a zero sum game with both Negro League museums fishing for the same grant graft?

KC2-articleLargeTwo other significant details reporter Mike Hendricks left out of the Star’s version of the dustup:

That Birmingham’s Negro Leagues museum “is fully funded and construction is ongoing” and the chairman of the Alabama Negro League’s Foundation says the museum has $5 million worth of artifacts lined up for its launch.

To which KC Negro Leagues main man Bob Kendrick counters, “We’ve done such a great job telling the story of the Negro Leagues that we’ve driven up the price of these artifacts. In some ways, we’ve become our worst enemy.”

Speaking of worst enemies…

What may be the KC Negro League museum’s absolute worst is its present location. And that’s something likely to be worsened by branching out to the Paseo.

“One challenge facing the museum is not being near popular t


ourist destinations like the Country Club Plaza and the Crown Center area south of downtown,” the New York Times wrote last year. “There has been a lingering perception that the 18th and Vine neighborhood, though significantly different from the tattered area it was 30 years ago, is still unsafe.”

In fact, Birmingham may not be KC Negro League’s only problem.

“Over the years, some have proposed moving the museum to the area that includes Kauffman Stadium and Arrowhead Stadium, the Kansas City Chiefs’ home, or folding it into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.,” the Times adds.

To which Kendrick’ replies weakly that tough times could bring more visitors here.

“The economy has made people want to stay a little closer to home,” he told the Times.

College Basketball Experience jpeg image for cuttingsAnd while the Times reports that KC’s Negro Leagues museum struggles to get 50,000 attendees annually (according to its 2012 tax filing that number rose to 65,000 with the All Star Game played here last year), the College Basketball Experience at Sprint Center boasts a yearly attendance nearing 400,000, according to the  Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association.

And while that frankly sounds a bit trumped up, its location is far superior to that of the Negro Leagues, it’s more interactive like Birmingham’s plans to be and it does relatively well in spite of the fact that it competes with the more established Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. (founded in 1959).

So yes, there is a Negro Leagues museum controversy, but it’s a little more complex than the version of the story Kansas Citians were fed yesterday.

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21 Responses to Hearne: Birmingham Negro Leagues Museum Controversy More Complex Than Reported

  1. the dude says:

    Even 18th and Vine doesn’t want to be located at 18th and Vine these days.

    • Andrea says:

      I’m embarrassed to admit that even though I’ve lived here in KC for two years now, I have yet to go to this or to the adjacent jazz museum, despite hearing rave reviews, because of the neighborhood. I’m sure I’m wrong, and that it would be perfectly fine during the day. And yet, I still haven’t gone. (Yes, I know, that’s pathetic.)

  2. smartman says:

    Sell the NLBM to Birmingham. Rechristen it as the Negro Community Homicide Museum. Attendance will easily double.

    Sell crips and bloods gear, South Pole, FUBU, Sean Jean in the gift shop.

    Put in a shooting at the cops simulator.

    Maybe a who my daddy kiosk where kids can swab their DNA and be matched against everyone currently in jail in the US.

    Lot’s of opportunities to turn that space around.

    • chuck says:

      Obviously smarty is being sarcastic, but I gotta tell ya, in all seriousness, if there was a public venue dedicated to the history of the Crips and the Bloods and the city charged admission, I gaurantee you it would be in the BLACK.

      The heavy bass beat of NWA in the background, speakers brought in from all over the country to recount their shoot outs with police in first person testimony that would give patrons goose bumps and tingles up their legs.

      For Chrissakes, the city ponied up 15K on a flyer to Floyd Mayweather’s dad, to see if they could get Floyd to come speak with the youths when he got out of prison for beating his girlfriend. Ok. Troy Shulte handed a check to Oscar Bolton for 15K, that he IMMEDIATELY spent on tickets to Vegas in order to sell a deal to Floyd for him to come here, wait for it, yes, thats right, 15K was just seed money, it was gonna be a hell of a lot more money to get this ex con here to KC to guide our city’s children in the right direction.

      So don’t think, for a second, that an actual Crips and Bloods Museum wouldn’t be packed with enthusiastic crowds of future felons if in fact it existed.

      It would.

  3. cheech lifting weights says:

    Whenever they tell you they want living, interactive displays that means they are going to put in some loud annoying crapola so stupid kids on fieldtrips that can’t be bothered to read can mash buttons.

    All these interactive exhibits end up broken in a few years as they are mashed on by halfwits constantly. Isn’t everything at Science City currently broken?

  4. admin says:

    Don’t disagree with you Cheech, but we live in a video game mentality world today.

    Having a tough time convincing my kids – two girls and two boys – to do their summer reading.Any summer reading! Right now it’s not looking good for bookstores and physical libraries in the Internet Age.

  5. admin says:

    By the way, just heard back from The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and they say the museum attracted approximately 210,000 visitors in 2012 and are on track to hit 220,000 this year.

    Again, I’m a little skeptical about the KC “experience” drawing nearly 400,000 BUT it does present the case that more than one museum can survive.

  6. chuck says:

    BTW. The last thing Birmingham, which is going bankrupt, needs, is another stupid vanity project.


  7. chuck says:

    Birmingham, might want to spend some money on education and hire some decent teachers.


    Or not, what the hell, Hollywood can be our guidon.

  8. chuck says:

    Just one more note. Instead of worrying about a museum, maybe Birmingham should think about hiring more cops. It is consistantly the 5th most dangerous city in America.


  9. chuck says:

    This really DOES remind me of KC. Drunken sailors for politicians, buring through money like crazy and worried about a “Negro Leagues Museum.”

    “Jefferson County, Alabama (The county collapsed under the weight of Birminghams debt.), declared the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, capping a more than three-year saga that turned it into one of the biggest casualties of Wall Street’s credit crisis.

    The move yesterday by Alabama’s most-populous county came after state lawmakers failed to back a September agreement with creditors led by JPMorgan Chase & Co. that would have reduced its sewer-system debt of more than $3 billion. Governor Robert Bentley and local leaders worked unsuccessfully for two months to rally support for the deal, which fell apart anyway.

    “We’ve reached that last resort,” Commissioner Joe Knight said yesterday at the meeting before the 4-1 bankruptcy vote. “We could continue and keep kicking this can down the road, but I think the people of Jefferson County have had enough.”

    The Chapter 9 filing leaves creditors including JPMorgan, the biggest U.S. bank by assets, facing hundreds of millions of dollars in losses and may revive concern that defaults may rise in the $2.9 trillion municipal bond market. The move also leaves residents of the county that’s home to Birmingham, Alabama’s largest city, facing uncertainty over how much they may have to spend on sewage fees to repay the debt that led to the debacle.”

  10. harley says:

    speaking of investments…now all glaze fans can invest in the stanfords
    full length animation movie.
    Its on some investment website where the glazers are try9ing to
    raise $55,000 to make this animation cartoon movie.
    Its kind of a neat idea and i’m going to make a small investment
    to the movie. I ‘d pay to seeit made.
    Should be fun. I think for $250 anyone can get their face in the
    movie in animation form.
    cool…hopefully it gets made and they get all their investment money
    raised in 60 days.
    glaze sure knows how towork the general public …..I didn’t even know
    a site like this existed to help entreprenuers raise capital for their

  11. harley says:

    the website is kickstarter.com. Its a very unique idea and glaze has a video there.
    maybe smarmyman can raise some $500 to increase his used hot tube inventory!!!!!!

    • admin says:

      Are you the last man on Earth to just now hear about Kickstarter, Mr. H?

      • harley says:

        sure am h jr…..I don’t do art projects so I’m nt in need
        of seed money for any movies films setc.
        sorry….I only read intellectual sites like red state/kos/
        huff post/mensa.com etc.
        but the glazes video on that site is pretty good…
        anxious to see how much money is raised;

        • admin says:

          It’s not just for art projects…

          For example, Local Burger in Lawrence tried for one last year. Lots of different businesses have tried in recent years. Some have made it, others not.

          The point being, it’s not something brand new

          • the dude says:

            Can we start a kickstarter project to make the harlinator and Glayzure go away permanently?

  12. cheech lifting weights says:

    Birmingham is actually a lot like KC. Great suburbs with lots of high skill jobs and a complete disaster downtown. North Alabama is actually doing OK between the companies in Huntsville and Birmingham with higher skill jobs and the Japanese Auto Manufacturers providing lots of middle class manufacturing jobs that pay alright.

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