Juanita Moore, president/CEO of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, joins previous honorees Aretha Franklin, Coleman Young, Willie Horton and Dennis Archer. (David Guralnick / Detroit News)
Movers and shakers from Detroit and beyond will jam the federal courthouse in downtown Detroit at noon Wednesday for Judge Damon J. Keith’s 27th annual Soul Food Luncheon.
Gov. Rick Snyder plans to attend. So do Mayor Mike Duggan and about 500 other souls lucky enough to earn a coveted invitation. Among them will be many of Judge Keith’s former law clerks, who fly in from all over the country.
Held every February during Black History Month, this year’s luncheon will present the Soul & Spirit Humanitarian Award to Juanita Moore, president and CEO of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.
“Our committee always honors a black person who’s contributed to our community,” Keith says, “and Juanita has just been outstanding. She kept the Wright Museum afloat financially and otherwise during rough times, and always kept it distinguished. We’re thrilled to be able to give her the award.”
Previous honorees have included Aretha Franklin, Coleman Young, Willie Horton and Dennis Archer.
Moore took over the Wright Museum in 2006, shortly after Keith led an emergency campaign to raise $1 million to keep the nation’s largest African-American history museum from sliding into bankruptcy. Despite that infusion, Keith notes that Moore had no easy path — steering the museum through the 2008 economic crisis and the collapse in corporate funding for cultural nonprofits that followed.
Moore’s accomplishment, Keith stresses, cannot be ignored. “The museum represents the best we have,” he says. “People who visit Detroit won’t leave without seeing it.”
For her part, Moore says she’s ecstatic at the recognition, particularly given its source.
“I’m very pleased. Anything with Judge Keith’s name on it would thrill me,” she says. “He epitomizes what it means to serve your community.”
Keith also serves up an impressive lunch. According to the judge, Wednesday’s menu will include baked chicken, fried catfish, turkey, black-eyed peas, collard greens, deviled eggs, fried corn, macaroni and cheese, banana pudding and chocolate cake.