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Museum eyes D.C. gala site
Site of postponed New York City event not free, as slavery museum official had expected.

Date published: 2/14/2006


The U.S. National Slavery Museum's first fundraising gala was originally planned for Constitution Hall in Washington, featuring Bill Cosby and Ben Vereen.

It was to have been held in December 2005 or January of this year, and was expected to bring in about $500,000, museum spokesman Michael J. Smith said in August.

By mid-November, those plans were on hold. Entertainer and museum board member Bill Cosby could not participate because of a contractual agreement with the Kennedy Center, Smith said. He's to perform there in March.

Cost was also an issue, Smith said. The National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution charges a fee to use its auditorium.

The next plan, which Smith announced in November, was to kick off fundraising in New York City on Feb. 19. There, he said, Wynton Marsalis, the noted jazz musician and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, would not only appear but was offering a facility for free.

It appears that deal was too good to be true.

Yesterday, while attempting to track down details concerning the cancellation of the New York event, Lincoln Center officials told The Free Lance-Star their facilities are never free for anyone.

"That, I can certainly tell you is not true," spokeswoman Mary Fiance-Fuss said when asked if there was any chance the museum would have had the fee waived.

"Mr. Marsalis is the artistic director of the facility and does not give away its use for free."

Not-for-profit organizations are charged $12,000 for the room the museum had planned to use this Sunday. In addition, they would have been charged additional costs for catering, labor and support, she said.

Marsalis' office also said he never planned to appear because his schedule would not permit it.

Last Friday, gala plans changed again. The museum released a statement announcing the event's postponement and saying the fundraiser would be rescheduled for some time in June somewhere in Washington.

The reasons given were that the museum had received an "enthusiastic response" to a public event at the National Press Club last week and that "overwhelming requests" to attend the gala had prompted them to seek a larger facility.

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