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Ok… So, last week, I had the awesome opportunity attend to a press preview of the newest Smithsonian– The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC.
I have no intention of spoiling your future experience inside the beautiful building but I wanted to share a little bit of my experience with you because you MUST go, too.
The directors, collectors, and team who curated everything we see in the 70,000 square foot building did a phenomenal job of showing the POWER and the PAIN of being Black in America.
For the first time ever, the biggest moments in our history have been collected and put on display for the entire world to see. The Smithsonian’s newest museum took over 10 years to build and is placed perfectly the national mall. Directly facing the National Monument, the building stands out as the only brown building on the national grounds. It is just as awe-inspiring on the inside as it is on the outside.
As I said before, and will probably say again, the exhibits perfectly represent the paradox of being black in America. I was told to start from the bottom and make my way up in order to feel how it was planned. And man, you need an entire day, there is SO much to see.
The powerful journey begins with slavery and the horrors we were forced to face as a people. On the walls and through the mazes of the beautifully constructed space, there were stories of families being torn apart, detailed accounts of how we were held in barracoons before being violently packed together in shackles on ships across the Atlantic and then, treated as property when we reached our destination on the east coast of America and beyond.
There were actual whips, pieces of slave ships, letters from the ship hands and more that caused me to get overwhelmed. But, as I went along, I saw Harriet Tubman’s shawl and Nat Turner’s bible that made me proud of the spirit and strength of our people. Even through all of the intentional and crafted plans to break our spirits, our ancestors still found a way to keep their minds and most importantly, their strength. Walking through, all I kept thinking was, “There is nothing I can’t do. Look at the stock of people come from. Look at the blood that runs through my veins.
Walking through, all I kept thinking was, “There is nothing I can’t do. Look at the stock of people come from. Look at the blood that runs through my veins.
The civil rights exhibit was tough and empowering. I saw a dress Rosa Parks wore. I read a story about a woman named Recy Taylor who was raped and kidnapped by several white men– The men were not convicted but actually tried to give her husband $600 for their trouble. Yea. There are accounts from the inspiring Ruby Bridges story that I learned about in school. There is an actual train from the segregation-era southern railway car from the 1920s and an area to feel what it was like during the sit ins and boycotts so many of us have seen in our history books. It hurt like hell but it inspired me to keep fighting because we have so much left to fight for.
Then, my favorite exhibit was the black power floor. It showed the moments in the 60s and 70s where we became aware of our power as James Brown, “I’m Black and I’m proud” played in the background. Phrases like “Black is Beautiful” and “Fight the Power” were splashed across the walls in bright yellow and my spirit was immediately lifted to a high. These words are necessary and not heard enough today.
The top floors bring the past to meet the present. The memorabilia in sports exhibit will inspire you to pick up a basketball or boxing gloves as biggest moments in the careers of everyone from the Williams sisters to Gabby Douglas to Lebron James, MJ, and Muhammad Ali are on display. It’s just beautiful. Sports was a great equalizer for black men to show how great and talented and worthy they were (and are) when put against men of the opposite race.
Guys, I can’t tell you everything but what I can tell you is that I walked away feeling so important. We, as a people, come from a different crop. Our ancestors fought, died, and resisted so that we can have the rights we have today. And while everything isn’t perfect, there is nothing we can’t do. We stand on the shoulders of our ancestors, and it’s time that we all act like it. See below for a small gallery of some of the photos I snapped while inside.
Watch my “BET Breaks” recap of my visit, below.
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