Museum to throw a fete fit for its namesake, Reginald F. Lewis

October 23, 2007|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN REPORTER

Baltimore's African-American history museum is planning a four-day celebration for what would have been the 65th birthday of its namesake.

Events set for Dec. 6-9 at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture include a play, lecture, annual fundraising gala and invitation-only black-tie birthday bash featuring Black Entertainment Television founder Robert L. Johnson.

Lewis, a Baltimore-born businessman and philanthropist, rose from humble beginnings to become CEO of TLC Beatrice International, the first African-American-owned business to crack the Fortune 500. He died in 1993. His philanthropic foundation donated $5 million to the museum that bears his name.

"This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate this man on this important day," says David T. Terry, the museum's executive director. "What Mr. Lewis' life is indicative of is what folks like [former museum board chairman] George Russell are always saying, that poverty is not a bar to success. With everything that parents face, trying to lead their kids and get them on the right path, it's refreshing to find examples from history that it's possible; it's always been possible. You put the work into it, and more often than not, you're going to get the result that you're after."

The celebration weekend begins Dec. 6 with the first of three performances of Miracle in Rwanda. The one-woman play stars Lewis' daughter, Leslie Lewis Sword, as a victim of the Rwandan genocide. Performances are set for 6 p.m. Dec. 6, 11 a.m. Dec 7 and 6 p.m. Dec. 8. Ticket are $35 Thursday and Friday, $10 for students with identification Friday, and $100 Saturday, which includes a post-performance reception.

The invitation-only black-tie birthday commemoration, featuring an address from Johnson, is set for Dec. 7, Lewis' birthday.

The free lecture featuring TLC Beatrice executives sharing stories about Lewis will be at 1 p.m. Dec. 8.

The weekend wraps Dec. 9 with a fundraising gala honoring Lewis and board member George L. Russell Jr., one of the guiding forces behind the museum's founding. The evening, set to begin at 6 p.m. at the Valley Mansion in Hunt Valley, will include a performance by Little Richard. Tickets are $250.

Except for the fundraiser, all events will take place at the museum, 830 E. Pratt St. For more information, call 443-263-1800, or go to reginaldflewis.com or african americanculture.org.

chris.kaltenbach@baltsun.com

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