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Wright Museum Gala brings Brazil to Detroit

By Phreddy Wischusen
The Michigan Citizen

On Sept. 28, The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History will transform parts of Detroit’s MGM Grand Casino into the Amazon rainforest with splashes of Rio carnival for their third annual Benefit Gala.

Began in Dr. Charles H. Wright’s office on West Grand Boulevard in 1965, the museum is now the world’s largest museum of African American history with yearly attendance expected to surpass 250,000 for 2013.  Visitors come to Detroit from all over the country and the world to visit the Wright museum.

Organizers hope the Benefit Gala will raise $500,000 for the museum. According to Ted Canaday, the museum’s Director of Marketing & Communications, “Annual support from the City of Detroit has been cut by $1 million over the past two years, so this fundraiser is critical…”

Since Canaday says the museum has been “blessed to receive donations of art works and artifacts that go into our collections,” funds raised will supportthe museum’s educational programs and operations.”

Jamon Jordan taught middle school at the Nsoroma Institute for 10 years. Every year he took his students to the Wright Museum.  Parts of the museum have a big emotional impact on the students, he said — especially the depictions of branding, the slave dungeon and the auction block.  Visual elements in the museum allow the students to “come away with a better understanding of slavery than a book or my lecture,” he said.

The gala’s theme is inspired by the museum’s current traveling exhibit, “Bandits & Heroes, Poets & Saints: Popular Art of the Northeast of Brazil,” which tells the story of how African, European and indigenous cultural traditions have interacted over a period of more than 500 years in the largest country in South America.  Exhibit curators hope visitors will “draw connections to and parallels with the (North) American experience.”

Le Petit Zinc owner Karima Sorel has lived in both Brazil and Detroit. “One of the greatest similarities from Detroit to Brazil are the effects of social marginalizing,” she says. “Brasil has its own complicated caste systems, based on elaborate codes made up of dialect, physical attributes, color, etc.  Diversity as an initiative is crucial to economic and social rehabilitation for both.”

His Excellency Mauro Vieira, Ambassador of Brazil to the United States, is the event’s Honorary Chairman.  The event will feature Brazilian cuisine, dancing and entertainment, open bar and a Rio Carnival after-party.  Tickets for the gala start at $300, which includes the gala and Rio Carnival after-party.

For people who want to support the museum, but can’t afford to attend, Canaday advises: “Become a member! Because of the fiscal situation of the City of Detroit, it is more important than ever that the museum receive support on an individual basis from members of the community, and every bit does count.” You can become a member, donate and/or volunteer online at

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