Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro

(Image: Wikipedia user Ingfbruno, Creative Commons)

Following pressure from city officials and stakeholders, the American Museum of Natural History in New York City has pulled the plug on an event honoring Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

Brazil’s far-right, autocratic leader has called for extrajudicial executions and has opened up vulnerable rainforests to agribusiness. Bolsonaro demonstrated his anti-democratic tendencies while running for office, claiming that he would not accept the results if his opponent won. Furthermore, he has regularly spewed misogynistic, racist, and homophonic rhetoric.

Like many museums with iconic facilities, the American Museum of Natural History regularly hosts private events, galas, and fundraisers. The museum has regularly served as the location for the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce’s annual gathering.

This year, the organization booked its event at the American Museum of Natural History before announcing its honoree, which turned out to be Bolsonaro.

Once the news broke, critics responded swiftly. A joint letter from staff and other community stakeholders minced no words condemning the event:

Hosting an event to honor a president who is so openly hostile to indigenous, black, women’s, and LGBTQIA causes is a stain on the Museum’s reputation which negates the nominal efforts it has recently made to grapple with its legacy of colonial violence and racism.

Incredibly, the museum cancelled the event, announcing in a public statement that “the museum is not the optimal location for the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce gala.”

This news follows last month’s big story regarding the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma, the company behind OxyContin. The National Portrait Gallery, The Tate Modern, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum turned down funding from the Sacklers in a stand against opioid profiteering.

The decisions that large institutions make matter. By accepting funding from nefarious companies or providing a platform for public figures who espouse anti-social agendas, nonprofits can betray their missions and let down their stakeholders.

Accountability appears to be on the rise in nonprofit board rooms, which is positive for all parties involved.


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