Monday, December 11

Do we Need a National African-American Museum?

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I love Washington DC.  It is a planned city developed with the help of a Black city planner.  It was also a great place for African-Americans to find a job in the federal government in the fifties. The city suffered through suburbanization in the sixties, but thanks to gentrification, the population has risen, and the city is back on track.  Perhaps the city was designed in a way that makes it easy to love, or perhaps we love the city in spite of its flaws.

Our own history is the same way.  There are great stories of triumph that were told and many that go untold.  Many people assume that Rosa Parks was the first Black woman that did not give up her seat to a White passenger.  Claudette Colvin, the first person to resist busing segregation, is unknown because she was pregnant, but she wasn’t married.  .  

The way that things are today no one would care if Claudette Colvin were pregnant.  In fact the idea that she was not married would actually be used to show just how strong a single Black mother could be.  This is how I arrive at the question of whether or not a National African-American Museum, which would have been a huge deal when the federal government made Martin Luther King’s day a national holiday, is still a necessity.  

The “National Museum of African American History and Culture Act” was passed in 2003 to make provisions for what will be the National Museum of African American History and Culture next year. For three years the museum will exist at the National Mall in Washington as a series of exhibitions and multimedia presentations.  In 2015 the construction will be complete and we will actually be able to walk into the museum.   

For years our history was told, but it was not celebrated.  It took years for serious consideration of African-American history to become institutionalized and celebrated somewhere other than a Historically Black College or University.  We are in a period of time when our culture is documented, yet tragically misunderstood.  Most only know what they see of our culture through mainstream America.  

African-American culture is not the culture of mainstream America.  It is a culture that you have to experience for yourself, and you will never get that experience from the Internet, or radio or television.  But you will not find it in a predominately Black neighborhood either if you are not willing to take on the entire breadth of our culture, because what you see in the ghetto and what you see in the middle class neighborhoods could be two entirely different things.  Our culture is rich, and we have made serious contributions to American history and despite the tragedy of slavery, being in America has allowed us to find unique ways to express ourselves.  Sometimes we are creative because of what we do not have, but at times we have invented new methods, and new technologies, to help those that have money to become more efficient.  We are known for our artistic contributions, but few knew about our technological contributions that make life easier for everyone. It isn’t so much that we necessarily need a National African American history museum, but I am glad that we will finally have one …

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