The Journey Towards Freedom, A Reflection of the NMAAHC

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.

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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 

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Chains worn by enslaved people with picture as background.
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Chains.

-The power of sugar, appropriately named the “driver of the slave trade,” and “more deadly than gold.”

Sugar bowl

-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. 


– A replica of a segregated Greensboro Lunch Counter which recounted videos of experiences. 

Visitors sit at a replica of the Greensboro Lunch Counter and read from information in front of them as video plays above. 

– Black power, everywhere. 

Videos of Dr. King
Video of marches 
Information about the Civil Rights Act and KKK Resistance.   
Black Panther Weaponry
The ideology of Black Power
Medgar Evers
Brother Malcolm

– Reflections on black women. 

Black, always beautiful
Video: women of the movement 
Video: Sister Fannie Lou Hamer 
Mamie Till-Mobley reflection
Women’s Groups 
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Rosa Parks, garment

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. 

Image result for bernie sanders getting arrested Image result for bernie sanders getting arrested

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.

Join us.

Parlae with us.

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The Contemplation Room, was a refreshing and necessary end to “The Journey Towards Freedom.”
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Contemplation Room. Four walls and a waterfall. Quiet & calm. Breathtaking and painstakingly necessary.

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.

-Shamira

Lest we forget

For a few days I could feel the fear and the sadness. The need for “revolution” was palpable. Solidarity in the movement could not be mistaken. And, allyship may have been as strong as ever.

 

But, I don’t feel that way today.

Today, there is a still quiet in the air. An undertone of buzz.

Yesterday, too.  

It is not silent – as there are protests, and vigils (and funerals), and town halls still taking place all over the country. But, it is contextually fairly quiet.

People are breathing a little easier.

Shoulders are are little less tense.

Conversations have shifted back to normal everydays.

And it makes me wonder. . . have we forgotten, already?

The hurt, pain, chaos, anger. The solidarity, unity, community.

The traditional news outlets sure have, so maybe we have to.

We’ve retreated back to our normal. Mind you, the one that has been forced on us for so many years. But, a normal nonetheless. Our normal. And, maybe, just maybe we’ve gotten too comfortable there.

Why are we comfortable? At the bottom. Because we’ve been given no place else to be?

Lest we forget, the bus boycott of Montgomery, Alabama lasted 381 days.  

Lest we forget, a huge chunk of sit-ins also lasted more than a year – and yielded some 70,000 participants and 3000 arrests.  

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Lest we forget, the Civil Rights Movement itself lasted an entire decade; from 1955-1965.

 

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I don’t have the answers. But, I’m hoping someone does. What is our next move? What’s the next play? What do we have to put into motion that will guarantee some 20 years from now, someone will be able to say, “Lest we forget. . .” about our time?

– Shamira

 

 

Almost ready 

 

Months ago I said that something was about to go down, and when it did I wanted to be Ready.

Well, it is here.

The moment is here. It has come full force. It is both figuratively and literally hitting us in the face.

 

And, I’m not ready.

I’m overwhelmed.

I’m sad.

I’m nervous.

I’m amped and hypervigilant.

And, still, not ready.

 

Everybody has an opinion – as we’re entitled to. And, as we join ranks, I want to be sure that we remember that as black people and that all that we’ve gone through together, amongst each other – we don’t all learn, and live, and grieve and fight the same way.

 

I want us to remember solace as we stand together, organize, and fight.

 

Let’s not condemn one another for not standing at the front of the lines in protest all across the country.

Let’s not push or force each other to watch #another live, on camera, cold-blooded murder.

Let’s not turn on one another because our solemn expressions aren’t “enough.”

 

Let us unite, in many different forms, but as one.

 

Some of us will write. Some of us will paint. Some of us will express our grief through a song or a dance.

Some of us will pray.

And, some of us will organize, some of us will march and some of us will fight.

Not matter what our roles are – – – no matter what YOUR role is – – – let us remember to stand together.

– Shamira

 

 

 

 

 

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The Answer

Bobby Seale talked extensively about the power of the black vote, last weekend at the Black History and Culture Showcase

He said, “institutionalized racism, backed by law, is only undone by voting.”

Thinking about the idea that a man in a uniform can evoke harm until death on camera and face no punishment – I know that we are more than aware that institutionalized racism is rapid and rampant throughout these United States.

I was awed by the eloquence with which Seale spoke.

I was awed by his ability to recite, with enthusiasm and passion, poems and works from decades ago.

I was awed by the conviction in his voice.  

And, most importantly, I was inspired.  

It is often easiest to find ourselves overwhelmed by all of the wrongdoings that we hear/see/live daily – but, I couldn’t help but feel, last weekend, that Seale has had the answer all along.

The power of the vote.

Infiltrating the system by populating the offices of those that make the decisions that govern the country is the answer. And, it’s the method by which the BPP worked years ago. 

Definitely easier said than done; but, an answer, no less.

I find nothing radical about this notion; for, common sense should tell us that it is inherently right that a group of people should be governed by a group of his and her peers. And, even still, this is a notion that occupies, though in variation, many of the laws that govern the land.

So, it hurts my feelings when people that look like me say that they refuse to vote because none of the candidates are representative of them or their values.

And, it scares me senseless, worrying about the worst case scenario reining true and leading the country.

It feels like we’re starting from the ground. Fortunately, the idiom tells us that, the only way to go is up.

Perhaps it’s time to return to those foundations and principles that struck a chord with us so many years ago.  

If we can organize and educate, we can run for and win elections in order to make better lives for ourselves.

by: Shamira

*Check out Julia’s reaction to the Black History and Culture Showcase.