Cosby Power: the Smithsonian NMAfA feels it

Guess who’s on the advisory board? National Museum of African Art Board Members November 2013. Top row, left to Right: Asif Shaikh, Lucia Riddle, Marcella Jones, Renee Stout, Henry Drewal, Honorable Anne Imelda Radice, and Stuart Bohart. Bottom row Left to right: Mustafa Jama, Magdalene Johnson Obaji, Dr Johnnetta Cole, Dr. Camille Cosby, and Dr. Christine Warnke
Guess who’s on the advisory board?
National Museum of African Art Board Members November 2013. Top row, left to Right: Asif Shaikh, Lucia Riddle, Marcella Jones, Renee Stout, Henry Drewal, Honorable Anne Imelda Radice, and Stuart Bohart. Bottom row Left to right: Mustafa Jama, Magdalene Johnson Obaji, Dr Johnnetta Cole, Dr. Camille Cosby, and Dr. Christine Warnke

Here’s the bottom line and then let’s be done with it:

  • Dr. Camille O. Cosby sits on the board of advisors at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art (NMAfA).

She is also President of the National Visionary Leadership Project, formed to help preserve the priceless legacy of African American elders. Dr Johnnetta Cole, who sits on the NMAfA board with Camille, is chair of the NVP.

  • She, and her husband William H. Cosby, Jr have had their private collection on display there in the prominently billed and much publicized show, Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue since Nov 9 of last year just as new allegations of rape were surfacing.
  • The NMAfA’s site pays homage to the collection and to the collectors, not just by showing the work, but in billing the William H. and Camille O. Cosby collection as “one of the world’s preeminent private collections of African American art” and, more ostentatiously, in quoting the Cosby’s in giant call-out type extensively throughout the NMAfA’s publicity for the exhibit and on the site.
  • Despite publically voiced worries regarding the tainted message sent by the museum’s crass honoring of the Cosby family through the exhibit, the praise, and the defiantly indulgent media they’ve created for the Cosby’s collection, the museum has responded with only a lame and obviously contradictory denial that the show has anything to do with the Cosby’s and is, in fact, only about the artists.

Here, in this NMAfA statement, is a bald-faced example of just how much the show has to do with the Cosby’s:

““The Cosbys’ decision to share African American artworks from their collection with the public for the very first time—only Henry Ossawa Tanner’s The Thankful Poor has been loaned before—is extraordinarily generous. It reflects their understanding of the importance of the National Museum of African Art and its central place in fostering meaningful dialogue about ideas and issues that unite us all as part of the human family.”

  • The exhibition will remain on view through Jan 24, 2016, and ironically, is considered, according to the museum’s site, to be “a major part of the museum’s 50th anniversary, celebrating its unique history and contributions toward furthering meaningful dialogue.”

Oh, and one more thing: The Cosby network of power, is extensive throughout philanthropic and educational spheres. Bill Cosby, alone is worth $400 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth, which accords Camille $20 million. The two have donated to a long list of benefactors, some of which are hanging for dear life onto the Cosby raft, hoping to weather the storm, while a growing list of others (Cosby’s alma mater University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Spelman College amongst them) have let go.

Here is a — by no means exhaustive — list of Cosby donations and reciprocal honors over the years:

Philanthropic donations to schools and educational foundations.

Operation PUSH

The United Negro College Fund,

Southern Christian Leadership Conference,

National Council of Negro Women,

Jesse Jackson‘s National Rainbow Coalition.[24]

1980s
Central State University (CSU) – $100,000

1987
CSU – $325,000

1989
CSU held the “Camille and Bill Cosby Cleveland Football Classic” in honor of their contributions to the school.

1987
Fisk University – $1.3 million

1988:
Spelman College$20 million
At the time, the New York Times, called this the largest donation to a black college in American history.

The college has since named the five-story 92,000 square foot Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby Academic Center after Cosby.

Meharry Medical College – $800,000

Bethune-Cookman University$750,000

1992
A gala was held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the National Coalition of 100 Black Women awarded Camille Cosby the Candance Award, a recognition of minority women that have made valuable contributions to their communities.

2002

Drs. Camille & Bill Cosby Community Center at St Frances Academy

2005
Saint Frances Academy of Baltimore High School -2 Million
Because of the donation, the school was able to endow 16 scholarships in Cosby’s name.

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