An Alabama civil rights organization withdrew a planned human rights award from political activist Angela Davis after a group that educates Alabamians about the Holocaust asked them to reconsider the honor.
The Birmingham Holocaust Education Center wrote to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute on January 2 expressing "concern and disappointment" about the plan to honor Davis with an award named for minister and civil rights pioneer Fred L. Shuttlesworth. The letter urged the institute to "reconsider your decision."
The Holocaust group cited "recent outspoken support" of a boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel, Al.com reported.
In a statement posted on its website over the weekend, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute said, "Upon closer examination of Ms. Davis' statements and public record, we concluded that she unfortunately does not meet all of the criteria on which the award is based."
The Institute's statement did not say what specific criteria Davis did not meet.
Davis, a Birmingham native, said Monday that the board wouldn't tell her why it rescinded the award but she later learned her "long-term support of justice for Palestine was at issue."
The civil rights institute also canceled a gala set for February.
The award's withdrawal spawned widespread controversy and prompted three BCRI board members to resign Wednesday. The former board members — chair Mike Oatridge, first vice chair Walter Body and secretary Janice Kelsey — said they regret the circumstances surrounding the award's selection process and "the dissension this has caused."
"It is hoped this move will enable the City of Birmingham to create a board structure that will best enable the BCRI to continue its critical mission in the future," the trio said in a statement.
The Holocaust education center's letter was signed by board president Deborah Layman and the 11 other members of the board's executive committee, as well as executive director Thomas Bryant. Layman said the committee voted unanimously to send the letter.
"Our intention was to go on record about our concerns in a private letter sent to BCRI leadership," she said in an email to AL.com, responding to a query about the letter. "We had no further part in the decision made by BCRI to cancel the event, and we were surprised at their decision."
Davis said she is still coming to Birmingham next month as part of "an alternative event."
A coalition of local activists and citizens said the "grassroots" event will be open to the public and will take place February 16, at a site yet to be determined.
"It will be a conversation with Dr. Davis, not a ticketed event," DeJuana Thompson, founder of Woke Vote, said at a news conference Wednesday. "It will center around her life's work and the current work she's doing to address injustice around the world."
Layman said the Holocaust education organization is willing to meet Davis with when she comes to her hometown.
"(We) would be happy to have a conversation with Prof. Davis," Layman said. "We believe that through open, respectful dialogue, mutual understandings may be reached."
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