By Erica Wright, Birmingham Times
Following backlash from a decision to rescind an invitation to civil rights activist Angela Davis, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) will get a dozen new board members.
The Birmingham City Council on Tuesday confirmed the appointment of 17 members – 12 new — to the BCRI board. Two additional seats are pending Council approval on next week’s regular agenda.
Earlier this year, several board members resigned following an outcry after the board rescinded the Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award to international activist and Birmingham native Angela Davis.
“We’re delighted to bring forth the slate of names of board members who have been chosen in a period of some disruption that found us in a very awkward position as an organization and in search of new leadership to help us pursue our mission to promote and preserve human and civil rights for all people,” said Andrea Taylor, president and CEO of the BCRI.
The BCRI reappointed five members, who will be serving their second term, in addition to new members.
The five reappointed were Rosilyn Houston, a senior executive with BBVA USA; Danny Markstein, president of Markstein, a full service marketing and communications agency; John Oros, president of the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau; Jonathan Porter, vice president at Alabama Power and Reverend Thomas Wilder, pastor of historic Bethel Baptist Church.
The new appointed members are Cassandra Adams, Samford University Cumberland School of Law; William Burgess of Burgess Fine Arts; Dr. Tamera Beasley, Pediatrics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham; Nyesha Black, Regional Planning Commission; Robert Dickerson, a local businessman and executive director of the Birmingham Business Resource Center; Daryl Grant, an executive at KPMG Advisory Services; Angela McKenzie, Regions Bank; Richard Rice, The Rice Firm, LLC; John Saxon, John D. Saxon P.C.; David Thomas, District Manager at Starbucks; Reverend Gwendolyn Webb, with Foot Soldiers International and Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church and Yolanda Clayton, who formerly served as a chief of staff for Jefferson County Commission District 1.
In March, the BCRI received more than 50 nominations.
“We narrowed that down . . . to a group of about 20 and we had three days of interviews with those 20 individuals to determine their qualifications, interests, skills and their willingness to serve and from that number we selected 12 new prospective board members for the BCRI,” Taylor said.
A few days after the BCRI rescinded the award, three board members resigned which were Mike Oatridge, Walter Body and Janice Kelsey. As a result of that, two other board members subsequently resigned. After those five resigned, it left eight members on the board.
The eight remaining board members were eligible for a second term on the board and encouraged to reapply, however two chose not to, leaving six current board members to reapply.
Taylor appeared at the city council meeting with 18 appointments – six returning and 12 new- however, one of the returning board members, Isaac Cooper, name was taken off the slate to further amend his term appointment and his name will be on the slate next week for the council to confirm along with one other board member.
Their bylaws allow for up to 27 members, but for now, 21 is ideal.
Councilor Steven Hoyt applauded the BCRI for its diligence in selecting new board members.
“I’m glad that you and the board found it necessary to have such diversity, you have to have it in order to be conscious of where we are and the climate we’re . . . and the more we can promote [diversity)] , I think the better we can expect our society to be.”