Dr. Ben Carson proclaims $2.9 million federal grant to check civil rights ‘gateway’

Dr. Standing in front of the Christmas tree in Linn Park in Birmingham on Tuesday morning, Ben Carson announced a federal grant of $ 2.9 million to investigate the best location for a proposed campus for the Global Forum for Freedom and Justice in Birmingham, the a “gateway to civil rights” will be way. “

The original plans were for a hotel and conference complex near Birmingham’s civil rights district, which includes the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.

The forum is an brainchild of millionaire philanthropists Wayne and Catherine Reynolds, who plan to move to the Birmingham metropolitan area to pursue their idea.

The grant is granted by the US Economic Development Administration. Reynolds said today that the investigation into where the campus will be located would take up to 18 months and he hopes to have a building within three to five years, despite the cool reception and opposition from some Birmingham civil rights institutions who said that it is not suitable in the district.

“Of course, human rights didn’t start here in Birmingham,” said Carson, the former neurosurgeon who is now the US Secretary of State for Housing and Urban Development. “They were written by God himself from the beginning.”

But Birmingham is the perfect place for the global forum, which will be “an anchor institution” for promoting civil and human rights, he said.

Carson said he learned as a child that education and reading were ways to rise out of poverty to become a doctor and hospital administrator.

“That’s what this opportunity is about, to show people that they are captains of their own ship,” he said. The forum would promote education and the promotion of human and civil rights, he said.

“Wayne is a great visionary,” said Scott Turner, White House executive director of the Opportunity and Revitalization Council who attended the announcement, along with Joel Frushone, director of foreign affairs and communications for the US Department of Commerce for Economic Development.

Birmingham City Council President William Parker also attended the ceremony and introduced Carson.

Although the ideal location would be in or near the Birmingham Civil Rights District, Reynolds said it was open to other locations in the city.

“We can do it elsewhere,” he said. “People will be drawn to it.”

The final complex could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said.

“There is no limit to the amount of money we can raise for this,” Reynolds said.

He’s committed to making it one of the best civil and human rights education organizations in the world, he said.

“I’m not ready to compromise,” he said.

Reynolds said he and his wife had already invested millions of dollars in the project and would continue to be key donors in funding it, although he expected no problem finding support for corporations and other philanthropic organizations.

“The fact that we can get a $ 2.9 million social justice grant from the Trump administration speaks for itself,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds, Chairman and CEO of the American Academy of Achievement, plans to build on this idea of ​​introducing a generation of young scientists to outstanding leaders on the world stage.

He notes that in 1977 the American Academy of Achievement bought the first plane ticket for future attorney Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative and author of the bestselling book Just Mercy, which was turned into a film starring Jamie Foxx. The academy introduced Stevenson to “Roots” writer Alex Haley and other high profile black Americans, noted Reynolds.

Reynolds’ wife Catherine donated $ 100 million to the Kennedy Center in 2002. She attended the ceremony with him on Tuesday at Linn Park, and they were sitting in the front row, socially distant, as Carson spoke.

Reynolds noted that churches have been a critical element in the civil rights movement and he hopes that the role of faith will be part of the mission of the Global Forum that trains a generation of leaders. “Faith has to be part of it,” he said. “Faith will be part of it.”

Wayne Reynolds, Chairman and CEO of the American Academy of Achievement, was at Linn Park in Birmingham on Tuesday, December 15, 2020 to seek a $ 2.9 million grant for his idea for a global forum for freedom and justice in Birmingham. (Photo by Greg Garrison / AL.com)

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