There are experiences in our lives that stick with us for a long time after they pass. This was the case with me on a cloudy spring day in Washington, D.C. some 2 years ago. Me and Maxim were visiting the beautiful cherry blossoms and decided to visit the new Museum of African American History and Culture opened in 2016 next door to the Washington monument. This museum is a beautiful testament to the Black experience in America and I highly recommend everyone to visit it, once it’s safe to do so, especially in these challenging times.
Inside the museum, you follow a narrated path throughout the history of Black people in America. Starting at the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and how African-Americans were forcibly brought over to this country. Followed by a prolonged history of slavery and Jim Crow south after slavery was “abolished” but nonetheless persistent in many parts of the country with laws that suppressed newly freed black people and denied their rights. Emmett Till’s story still haunt my dreams. A young 14-year old Black boy was visiting Mississippi from Chicago and was brutally murdered then drowned for allegedly flirting with a white shop owner in 1955. His mother decided to hold an open-casket funeral to show the ugly truth of racism. His funeral, preserved on full display at the museum, has in turn inspired the modern Civil Rights Movement.
A lot of the Black history in the United States is laden with moments like this – moments of great suffering and anguish. But it also has moments of great joy and accomplishments throughout. The last part of the museum is hopeful for the future and celebrates Black creators and their influence in music, movies, theater, sports, TV, and politics. It’s a great reminder of how far African-Americans have progressed in this country despite constant pushbacks and setbacks.
I wonder how our modern times will be remembered in this very museum some years from now. Do you think there will be a George Floyd memorial similar to that of Emmett Till – a part of HIStory that we did not seem to learn from? Or will there be a wing dedicated to black excellence in the current climate of learning to appreciate and CELEBRATE black creators and entrepreneurs who often go without recognition? If this was your wing, what would YOU make it in 15 years?