Our Visit To The National Museum of African American History
September 25, 2017
Last weekend Andrea, Syd and I went to visit Anthony (Andrea’s son) and his fiancée Corrine in Virginia. They secured tickets to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture which took SIX months to get, that’s how long the wait for tickets is. Last year we tried to just walk up and go in on the first weekend it opened but when we got there the line was wrapped around the building and down the road. We had no idea how popular the museum would be.
When you get in the first thing they tell you is you are going to take an elevator down to the bottom and then slowly walk roughly 2 miles upwards through time. They tell you the history starts in the 1400’s and works its way through to the present and I have to say, when I began the tour I was excited but before I could finish one piece of the exhibit I became overwhelmed. There was so much information that there is no way I could process it all in half a day.
The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture had exhibits on everything from 17th century Queen Nzinga of the Ndongo and Matamba Kingdoms to Clara Brown who was a former slave turned community leader and philanthropist. We saw exhibits that included Emmett Till and even art and photo displays. There was a lot of information that I didn’t know and tried to assimilate. No one put pressure on you to hurry. You could stand at an exhibit for 1 minute or one hour.
Before we even got to the second floor I was exhausted, not from walking, but simply trying to read and look at everything. My emotions were everywhere from joy to sheer anger at what I saw and read. We walked into one exhibit that had wooden pieces of the slave ships plus the arm and leg irons that shackled the Africans. It made you FEEL how a slave would feel. All that talk we spit saying, “If I was a slave I would beat the masters ass.” Yeah, naw we wouldn’t. The feeling I got from walking in there was despair, desperation and defeat. The exhibit painted a horrific life for slaves.
We traversed upwards and continued checking out the sights all the while feeling the range of emotions that befitted whatever we looked at. It got to the point where I had to sit down to think on what I experienced. While sitting I noticed that the museum had a tremendous amount of patrons from all walks of life, black, white, male, female, young, old but I have to be honest and tell you that I was surprised to see two groups of people there. I saw people of Asian and Arab ethnicities at the museum. You are probably saying “yeah, so what” as you read this but for me I didn’t expect to see them. I didn’t think they would care to learn about our culture. I know that is ignorance on my part but I am being honest.
There was one exhibit that resonated with me immensely and that was the music. They had examples of DJ equipment from the early 70’s such as mixers, turntables and speakers encased in fencing like you would see at a street basketball court on one side and on another side they had J Dilla’s beat machine. I felt like I was looking at my past and again being honest I kinda choked up. This is something that I can say I was a significant part of. I was a DJ, radio personality, mixtape maker, booty shaker and to see my past in a museum was very emotional. I didn’t want to leave.
When we did leave (five hours later) we sat down outside of the museum and talked about our experience. From that I decided to do things a little different. We will go back but I will only take in one piece of the museum at a time. I saw several people with notepads taking notes of things they wanted to delve into deeper and I added that to my mental list of what to do on the next visit. I had a great time, loved every minute of it even when it put my “hulk” rage on boil. There is no escaping the past. It happened and it’s that simple. The people who took the time to put this together and provide us a glimpse into what life was like from the 1400’s to today……Job well done. You need to go see it. It is worth the trip but plan to spend a couple of days there.