By Barney Blakeney
The International African American Museum is set to move on in the wake of CEO Michael Moore’s announced resignation last week, said Dr. Bernard Powers who temporarily will replace Moore as the developing museum continues to take shape.
While some saw Moore’s announced departure as sudden, Powers said it comes as part of the museum’s internal timeline. Moore came to the museum project about four years ago to help secure funding and he’s done that, Powers said.
The project that began as a concept of former Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley Jr. in 2000 originally was estimated to cost about $60 million. Last September the nearly 20-year-old project met its goal of reaching $75 million. Time and inflation required more funding be raised to allow construction. That price has risen to about $92 million. About $89 million already has been raised. Groundbreaking for construction is slated for late October. Without Moore’s abilities, the project may have faltered, Powers said.
Now that the project is moving into the construction phase, it’s an opportune time for Moore, who said in the beginning he’d eventually move on, to leave. It means the project won’t be forced to “change horses in the middle of the stream,” Powers said. He envisions the next CEO to be someone who will build the museum and eventually run it. The transition at this point is less disruptive, Powers said.
“This doesn’t change anything in terms of our internal timeline,” Powers said. “We’ll break ground in October and complete construction in two years. We have staff that’s been in place about two years who include a curator, an education outreach person and a community outreach person. We’ve just hired Elijah Heyward who as our chief operating officer will run the day to day operations.”
Heyward, a 2005 graduate of Hampton University’s Honors College and William R. Harvey Leadership Institute, is a native of Beaufort where he distinguished himself as a scholar athlete and musician. He was a dual History and Leadership Studies major at Hampton University. Also, Heyward is a 2007 graduate of Yale Divinity School. Heyward leveraged his experiences at Hampton, Yale and the Institute to found the Youth Scholar Academy.
The academy’s model was based on Heyward’s Honors College Capstone, “Saving the Young Black Male.” Since its inception, the Youth Scholarship Academy has helped hundreds of African American male students across the country from schools such as Chicago’s Urban Prep Academy and organizations such as the Baltimore Education Scholarship Trust. In 2013 Heyward became the first African American admitted into the American Studies PhD program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Powers, who will commence part time CEO duties August 2 when Moore leaves, said the project remains on track. He envisions hiring a permanent CEO whose feet are firmly planted in the museum world. Finding that person may take about six months, he anticipates.
“It’s important that the public knows we’re still working on our internal timeline and that all is on track,” Powers said.