The Journey Towards Freedom:
I’ll say first – there are no people stronger than us. And though I’ve always known this, on this day I was able to feel this.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture is a magical place. Curators tell us that it’s 100 years in the making and I wholeheartedly believe that it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Tickets to this gem of a place are few and far between; but I was able to join my sister on Christmas Eve, ’16. I can’t fathom putting into words what I felt in my heart & spirit in a way that will feel as worthwhile to a reader as it did to be there in flesh. I’ll share some photos, below; but, only a few because even those won’t do it justice.
I spent about 3 1/2 hours at the NMAAHC, and covered possibly half (I’m guessing) of the museum. I spent that time in the space called “The Journey Towards Freedom, 15th-21st centuries.”
We started the journey in a large glass elevator. A woman speaks over the already hushed crowd and tells us that we’re traveling 70 feet below ground back to the year 1400. She gives brief histories about the importance of the museum and the power of our culture. The elevator continues to fall all while years tick by through the glass . . . 1968, 1948, 1865, 1863, 1808, 1776, 1565, 1400.
What I saw:
– Real live slave chains
-The power of sugar, appropriately named the “driver of the slave trade,” and “more deadly than gold.”
-The names of so many ships carrying enslaved people carved into the walls.
It reads: “Ship Name, Country, Voyage Began, Enslaved Boarded/Survived.”
*Saint Michel embarked in 1730 with 170 slaves. Just one enslaved person survived.
– Harriet Tubman’s shawl and hymnal as well as Nat Turner’s bible.
– Black power, everywhere.
– Reflections on black women.
What I felt:
Disgust for the treatment of our people dating back to the 1400s. I learned so much – and couldn’t absorb it all.
Awe at the resilience and comradery within and amongst one another to deal with and overcome hatred, bigotry, thievery, malice … Awe at the leadership of our people. Awe at survivorship.
Angst about the idea that many of the things we went through 50, 100, 150 years ago we’re still going through now.
Anxiety. An anxiety so thick that all I could do was breathe at times.
Fear – when I saw a young John Lewis speaking about police brutality. Makes me think of how often “police brutality” is used today. It feels new. Like a new phenomenon. A fad. Reflection reminds me that point 7 of the Black Panther’s 1967 Ten Point Program reads:
We want an immediate end to POLICE BRUTALITY and MURDER of Black people.
Not new. Not a fad. A longstanding tradition.
Joy for all of the beautiful black men, women and children (allies too) visiting the museum.
Overwhelmed by what is still to be done.
Pride because when we do things, we do them well. EVERYTHING about the museum was done well. Over 100 years it took to commission this place – twice as hard, half as much.
Hope. Generally speaking, I hope the hype of the museum never dissipates. I hope tickets are always scarce. I hope that you have to put in a request 6 months in advance to view this magical place, five years from now. I hope people travel from near and far to stop in – and that they book their trips around the visit. I hope that everyone who visits is forever moved and transformed and that they leave with a sense of purpose and place. I hope that allies visit and leave with a mission – that they plan to fight hard and speak up. That they tell the people that look like them and share similar demographics as their families about racism, sexism & classism, like young Bernie Sanders.
What I’m (we’re) going to do next:
I plan to continue what I’m doing but, with a different type of purpose. An even more educated purpose. An urgent and premeditated purpose.
I implore you to make a trip to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Think of it as your first trip to the NMAAHC – there is no way it will be your last. Go. Be inspired.
Check out the Injustice Boycott. I’m of the opinion that Shaun King has started something big – and most importantly, worthwhile.
Moreover, Parlae is entering its second year in just a few days.
With age comes wisdom and responsibility.
Julia and I plan to live up to those expectations. There is a lot more in store from us.
Parlae with us.
I’ll leave you with this.
Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live – a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
– Dr. King, April 3, 1968
Peace & Love, Forever.