Center for Civil & Human Rights: A Special Preview

Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta

I attended a special preview of the Center for Civil and Human Rights yesterday. My digital marketing firm, SHERPA global, proudly designed & developed the Center’s website; our team was granted a special opportunity to preview the Center with key stakeholders.

The Center is far more than a museum, which would merely capture and catalogue artifacts. Rather, the Center is an interactive, immersive experience of the region’s fight for civil rights, and mankind’s continued struggle for human rights. I predict it will be Atlanta’s landmark exhibit for the world — both for its visual elegance and inspirational content.

Get ready to be inspired, world.

A Landmark for Atlanta

The 43,000-square-foot Center for Civil and Human Rights is located in Centennial Olympic Park, rounding out the nearby museum options for trivia-filled infotainment (World of Coca-Cola) and immersive education (Georgia Aquarium). The Center’s tagline “Inspiration Lives Here” is brought to life juxtaposed on this campus of options. Luckie Marietta District has something for everyone; it is truly a “must-see” place for Atlanta tourists and natives alike.

The building appears firmly rooted in its place, made elegant yet bold with modern lines and organic materials and colors. The design reminded me of a slightly metallic albeit wood-textured shell surrounding or protecting something important but ethereal inside. Design architect Phil Freelon and The Freelon Group and Atlanta-based architect-of-record HOK said the design was based on “a concept of unity.”

The current design evokes the image of two cupped hands holding and protecting something precious: respect for human dignity.

rendering of the Center for Civil and Human Rights
Original rendering of the Center for Civil and Human Rights

Once inside the building — unfortunately photos were explicitly forbidden — you are put at ease with white, rounded surfaces and clean lines from dark brown wood floors. While the stories of civil and human rights are harsh, filled with the violence & death that can erupt from the inequalities of dreams deferred, here the the environs promote reflection and hope. In short, it puts you in the right mind as you prepare for what will most certainly be an emotional journey.

A Landmark for our Times

Upon its grand opening this June 23, the Center will exhibit four galleries. I was only able to visit two of them.

I don’t want to ruin your own visit with spoilers of the actual exhibits but I can share my thoughts on my experience.

Rolls Down Like Water

“But let justice roll down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” – Amos 5:24

The title of this exhibit is based on a biblically-inspired quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.. This exhibit is, however, far more than just the story of one man; it captures the many stories behind the brave fight for equality in The American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s — from the brave, young teens called the Freedom Riders to the 253,000 that peacefully assembled for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedoms to the many heroic, and not so heroic, politicians and figures of power & influence.

When you first enter the exhibit, look left and then look right. Listen to the sounds of the TV’s in the first room. Don the headphones and see if you can withstand the vile, hate-filled words that saturated our society but a few decades ago. These are the sights and sounds that served as the roots of the Civil Rights movement, and Atlanta was key to that story. As you make your way around the exhibit’s rooms, take the time to take in what will be visceral experience. When you make it to Three Hymns prepare for your heart to be moved.

Curated by Tony Award–winning theatrical playwright and film director George C. Wolfe of Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk fame, this exhibition has all the elements of exceptional theatre. Be prepared to be both infuriated and inspired by these many stories.

Spark of Conviction

The Center advises 75 minutes when visiting the Center. But by the time I got to the Global Human Rights exhibit I was already too drained. I was filled with so many emotions — anger, frustration, hope. I had a lot to digest still so I purchased a membership pass to the Center, which provides unlimited free admission for one year.

Instead, I went out for a late dinner nearby to talk through the experience with my colleagues that attended.

Verdict: Inspiration Lives Here

The Center for Civil and Human rights declares the following purpose:

to create a safe space for visitors to explore the fundamental rights of all human beings so that they leave inspired and empowered to join the ongoing dialogue about human rights in their communities

Without question, the Center serves this challenge well.

There was room for improvements. I would have enjoyed a place within the building to rest between exhibits and share experiences over a snack or drink. While there are plenty of options nearby an option for “take-it-all-in” respite would have been appreciated. Also, in this modern day of social networks I really wanted to capture & share my experience with photos; photography was strictly prohibited, unfortunately. I think there is a huge opportunity here for the Center, especially if it hopes to teach and inspire the younger generation of how much came before them, at what costs, and how future change will only come through their own individual courageousness.

The Center has a vital story to tell about us all; it shares it with brave elegance.

The Center for Civil and Human Rights opens to the world June 23rd with a celebratory opening at 10am. All are invited.

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