The Department of Arkansas Heritage has decided to return Black Lives Matter T-shirts to the store of the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in Little Rock.
Here’s what we wrote earlier about removal of the T-shirts from the state-operated museum that focuses on the African-American experience in Arkansas.
I sent the Department a series of questions about the museum after an earlier statement about the shirtrs contradicted that of the interim museum director. She’s said that concern about cultural sensitivity prompted removal of the shirts, on the direction of Department Deputy Director Rebecca Burkes. There are lingering concerns in the black community about the state’s commitment to the museum. It’s undergone staff changes and and there are no immediate plans to permanently fill the vacant director’s slot. Questions have arisen about continued state support for activities of the center.
A spokesman said answers are coming on specific questions, but she did send this prepared statement issued in the name of Department Director Stacy Hurst:
Recently, DAH Deputy Director Rebecca Burkes was reviewing the Mosaic Templars Museum Store sales and items for sale with Interim MTCC Director Quantia Fletcher. In that review, they determined that carrying t-shirts with the slogan, “Black Lives Matter,” was not consistent with the merchandise available in our other museum stores, Old State House Museum, Historic Arkansas Museum and Delta Cultural Center. The practice in the other stores is that wearable items have the museum logo or feature a specific museum exhibit or program. The decision was made to remove the t-shirts. Some discussion did focus on the fact that the t-shirts could be seen as controversial.
I regret that the removal of the t-shirts has sparked a discussion that has turned divisive, and I have asked staff at MTCC to return the t-shirts to the museum store. The Department of Arkansas Heritage will continue to put considerable resources into Mosaic Templars Cultural Center and its mission of presenting the African-American experience and why it’s important that all Arkansans know it. I hope everyone will come see the Kinsey Collection while it is on exhibit at MTCC from April 8 through July 2. This nationally acclaimed exhibit includes authentic and rare art, artifacts, books, documents and manuscripts that express the often untold story of African American achievement and contribution.