As the year comes to an end, many of us are fortunate to receive invitations to events large and small. With Hanukkah falling on December 24th, there will be simultaneous celebrating by Jews and Christians this year. And even more will celebrate the New Year. Some events are family parties, work gatherings, or faith celebrations. Others are fundraisers or friend-raisers for nonprofit organizations or institutions.
Last weekend, we had the opportunity to experience a friendraiser for the restoration of the historic Clayborn Temple in Memphis, Tennessee. We share our experience with you for two purposes: to share information about this important restoration of a civil rights monument, and to provide an example of a successful friendraiser.
“A Gospel According to Jazz” Christmas Concert was a first class event. We enjoyed spiritual and spirit-filled performances by Grammy Award winning saxophonist Kirk Whalum, guitarist Norman Brown, pianist Keiko Matsui, and special guests Kevin Whalum, John Stoddart and Shalea. Interest in the event was so great that a second show was added.
These musicians – and the audience – created an evening that allowed everyone to experience what it would be like if Clayborn Temple was fully restored and brought back to life as a community gathering place that meets community needs.
The cornerstone for the historic building we know today as Clayborn Temple was laid in 1891. The building was dedicated in 1893 as Second Presbyterian Church and at the time was the largest church building in America, south of the Ohio River. In 1949, the congregation sold the building to the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and it was renamed Clayborn Temple to honor AME Bishop Jim Clayborn. During the sixties it was home to civil rights organizing, including the sanitation workers strike that drew Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Memphis in April 1968. Clayborn Temple was the site where “I Am a Man” signs were distributed during the strike: signs that remain a living part of history.
The restoration of Clayborn Temple – known as Clayborn Reborn – is a project that began because Memphians saw a challenge and came together to meet it. Clayborn Temple has been shuttered since 1999 and had been contributing to neighborhood blight. Restoration has become a community effort. Rob Thompson and Frank Smith have stabilized the building and are inviting the community to envision how it could come back to life. The Christmas Concert was an opportunity to feel what it could be like if the building were fully restored and operating as a community hub.
This was a true friendraiser – concert goers were encouraged to share their vision of what Clayborn Temple could become, and to keep coming back. Bottom line: this civil rights monument can be restored not as a museum but as a “living” part of history and our future.
Learn more at www.ClaybornReborn.org.
Copyright 2016 – Mel and Pearl Shaw