New Birmingham Civil Rights Institute leader wants to bring youth, technology to center

New Birmingham Civil Rights Institute leader wants to bring youth, technology to center

Above: Andrea Taylor speaks after being introduced as the new president and CEO of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. (Billy Brown/Alabama NewsCenter)

Andrea Taylor introduced as president and CEO of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Andrea Taylor plans to use her background at Microsoft, as a fundraiser and as a journalist along with an emphasis of working with youths to pave a new future for the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

Taylor was introduced as the new president and CEO of BCRI Wednesday, one day after starting the job. She replaces Lawrence Pijeaux, who led BCRI for 19 years before retiring last year.

“This is a time to focus on preparation for the next phase of our growth and for the impact and sustainability of this important institution,” Taylor said. “And so, it’s this opportunity to apply my cumulative skills and experience to BCRI in this period of transition and transformation that has brought me to Birmingham.”

Taylor comes to BCRI from Microsoft Corp., where she was director of citizenship and public affairs in North America. She also worked with the Ford Foundation and the Benton Foundation, among others, in global and national grant programs and fundraising.

She began her professional life as a journalist, working as a reporter, producer and on-air host for newspapers and public television stations, including the Boston Globe and WBHM-TV in Boston.

Lajuana Bradford, chairwoman of the BCRI board of directors, left, hugs new BCRI CEO Andrea Taylor after introducing her at a press conference. (Billy Brown/Alabama NewsCenter)
Lajuana Bradford, chairwoman of the BCRI board of directors, left, hugs new BCRI CEO Andrea Taylor after introducing her at a press conference. (Billy Brown/Alabama NewsCenter)

“We are excited about beginning this new phase of leadership at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute,” said Lajuana Bradford, chairwoman of BCRI.

Doug Jones, second vice chairman of the BCRI board of directors and co-leader of the search committee, said Taylor was the obvious choice as BCRI prepares for its 25th anniversary in two years.

“She brings to this institution an energy and ability that is needed to take it to the next level and Birmingham with it,” Jones said.

Taylor said hopes to pursue a program Microsoft offers to help boost technology at museums like BCRI. She would like to introduce a BCRI app for visitors to use with their smartphones when they visit the institute. Taylor wants to make some programs available via distant learning for those unable to visit in person.

A key part of revitalizing BCRI will be getting young professionals involved. Taylor wants young professionals to support BCRI with their “time, talents and treasure” and make the institute a part of the downtown revitalization.

Taylor, who lives downtown, walks from her apartment to BCRI and said she enjoys the energy she feels in Birmingham.

“The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is among the world’s most iconic and important civil and human rights organizations,” she said. “I’m both excited and humbled by the opportunity to lead the next phase as we approach the 25th anniversary.”

Since opening in 1992, BCRI has hosted more than 2 million visitors from all 50 states and abroad. Taylor said she recognizes BCRI’s role not only in education, but in tourism and economic development for Birmingham and the rest of the region.

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute was No. 10 on the Alabama Tourism Department’s list of “Top Ten Attractions” last year, drawing 161,000 visitors in 2014.

“The Civil Rights Institute has made an important appointment with their decision to hire Andrea Taylor as president and CEO,” John Oros, president of the Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau, said. “Her history of work with government officials and community-based organizations will benefit the strategic partnerships that support the institute. Her background with foundations also is essential to the success of the organization. Andrea’s employment through the years is purely impressive, and we’re delighted to be working with her as head of the institute.”

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