Tavis Smiley, Walmart, and Special Guests Kicked Off ‘America I AM Across America’ at ESSENCE Music Festival in New Orleans
NEW ORLEANS (July 4, 2008) — Thousands of people united at the ESSENCE Music Festival in New Orleans today to celebrate the launch of “America I AM Across America,” a mobile experience leading to the “America I AM: The African American Imprint” museum exhibition. Through artifacts, documents, video and music, the mobile tour will bring the exhibition’s inspirational message to the hearts of more than 40 communities in advance of the exhibit opening.
The celebration included a special performance by Grammy-nominated recording artist Ledisi, and remarks by broadcaster Tavis Smiley; Cornel West, professor of Religion and African American studies at Princeton University; the exhibition’s executive producer John Fleming, president of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History; and Rosalind Brewer, president, Southeast Division, Walmart.
As it journeys across the nation from July to November, “America I AM Across America” will make appearances at festivals, African American museums, landmarks, schools and other community gatherings in cities including New Orleans, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Jacksonville, Memphis, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix, Washington, D.C., New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, and many more. The exhibition is made possible by Walmart, which serves as its presenting sponsor, and also will host the mobile tour in several cities. ExxonMobil joins the mobile tour as the sponsor fueling the truck across America. Tour schedule details are available at www.AmericaIAM.org.
The museum exhibition “America I AM: The African American Imprint” will celebrate 400 years of African American contributions to the nation through artifacts, documents, multimedia, photos and music. “America I AM Across America” will serve as a traveling microcosm of the exhibition, a multi-sensory experience complete with artifacts, text, video, music and a unique visitor interactive opportunity. In a customized mobile recording booth, visitors will have the opportunity to leave their own “imprints” as recorded video messages that will travel with the exhibition. As the exhibit travels to cities across the country, this living imprint will grow to become the largest oral history project recorded in U.S. history.
“‘America I AM: The African American Imprint’ encourages all people to connect in a meaningful way with the foundations of democracy, cultural diversity, exploration and free enterprise, which began when the first Africans arrived in Jamestown,” said Tavis Smiley. “By telling the stories of the events of the past, we can help the leaders of the future set the stage for active participation in the democratic process for years to come. The ESSENCE Music Festival was the perfect place to kick off this tour and I’m looking forward to visiting other communities as well, as this tour travels across America.”
“Walmart is proud to be part of such an innovative display of the trials and triumphs of the African American community,” said Rosalind Brewer, president, Southeast Division, Walmart. “It is important to recognize African American history as American history and as something that should be celebrated throughout the year. And there is no better way to share the enormous contributions of African Americans with communities across the country than through a nationwide traveling exhibit.”
“ExxonMobil is proud to be a part of the historic ‘America I AM Across America’ mobile experience across the U.S.,” said Ben Soraci, U.S. retail sales director for ExxonMobil Fuels Marketing Company. “With programs ranging from education to entrepreneurship, The Smiley Group builds diversity in the business community, which is significant for companies like ExxonMobil. Meeting the world's fundamental and growing need for energy is a massive undertaking, and we are inspired by the focus on excellence and accomplishment that remains the hallmark of The Smiley Group's achievements.”
Developed in partnership with The Smiley Group, Inc., and organized by Arts and Exhibitions International (AEI) and Cincinnati Museum Center, “America I AM: The African American Imprint” is a four-year touring exhibition that will tell the story of the nation’s African people and their legacies through objects, texts, religion, music, narration and media culled from every period of the nation’s history. Featuring more than 150 extraordinary artifacts, the exhibit will present a historical continuum of pivotal moments in courage, conviction and creativity that solidifies the undeniable imprint of African Americans across the nation and around the world.
More details about the mobile tour and exhibition, including a gallery walkthrough moderated by
Tavis Smiley, are available at www.AmericaIAM.org.
ABOUT The Smiley Group, Inc.
Founded in 1998 and based in Los Angeles, The Smiley Group, Inc., (TSG) is a communications corporation dedicated to supporting human rights and related empowerment issues. The mission of TSG is to achieve positive results through advocacy and education on issues of concern to African Americans and other people without substantial economic or social standing. TSG is the holding company for Tavis Smiley Presents, Smiley Radio Properties, High Quality Speakers Bureau, TS Media, and SmileyBooks. The Tavis Smiley Foundation is a nonprofit organization that provides leadership development training for youth. Tavis Smiley is the host of Tavis Smiley on PBS and The Tavis Smiley Show from PRI and the author/editor of 11 books including the New York Times best sellers Covenant with Black America, What I Know for Sure: My Story of Growing up in America, and THE COVENANT In Action. For more information, visit www.tavistalks.com.
ABOUT Arts and Exhibitions International (AEI)
Founded in 2003 by president John Norman and international vice president Andres Numhauser, AEI produces the award-winning exhibition “Diana: A Celebration” in association with the Althorp Estate in the United Kingdom, two touring exhibitions dedicated to the treasures of King Tutankhamun and “Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship.” Norman and Numhauser have nearly 40 years combined experience in the entertainment and exhibition business, working over the years on such projects as “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibit” and “Saint Peter and the Vatican: The Legacy of the Popes.” The company has relationships with the most important museums in the world and has presented traveling exhibitions on four continents.
AEI is part of AEG Exhibitions, an affiliate division of AEG LIVE. AEG LIVE is a collection of companies dedicated to all aspects of live contemporary music performance and the live-entertainment division of Los Angeles-based AEG, one of the leading sports and entertainment presenters in the world. For more information, log onto www.artsandexhibitions.com.
ABOUT Cincinnati Museum Center
Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal is home to the Cincinnati History Museum, Duke Energy Children's Museum, the Museum of Natural History & Science, the Robert D. Lindner Family OMNIMAX® Theater, and the Cincinnati Historical Society Archives & Library. It is a nationally recognized educational and research resource and one of the top cultural attractions in the Midwest. With more than one million visitors each year, Museum Center is the top cultural attraction in Cincinnati and the most visited museum complex in the State of Ohio. Originally built in 1933 as the Union Terminal train station, the building is a national historic landmark and was renovated and reopened as Cincinnati Museum Center in 1990. For information, call 513-287-7000 or
1-800-733-2077 or visit www.cincymuseum.org.
ABOUT Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT)
Every week, millions of customers visit Walmart Stores, Supercenters, Neighborhood Markets, and Sam’s Club locations across America or log on to its online store at www.Walmart.com. The company and its Foundation are committed to a philosophy of giving back locally. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) is proud to support the causes that are important to customers and associates right in their own neighborhoods, and last year gave more than $270 million to communities in the Unites States. To learn more, visit www.walmartfacts.com, www.walmartstores.com, or www.walmartfoundation.org.
ABOUT ExxonMobil Fuels Marketing Company
The Fuels Marketing organization, one of Exxon Mobil Corporation's Downstream Business Units, provides nearly 5 million barrels per day of ExxonMobil fuel products to a globally diverse customer base in over 80 countries on five continents. Our business is comprised of four (4) Business Lines: Aviation Fuels, Industrial & Wholesale, Marine Fuels andRetail. The Exxon, Mobil, and Esso brands serve motorists at nearly 34 thousand service stations and provide over 1 million industrial and wholesale customers with quality fuel products. In addition, fuel products and services are provided to aviation customers at over 650 airports and to marine customers at 200 marine ports around the world.
# # #