This past week Hurricane Irma ravished through the Caribbean and all of Florida. Prior to the development of the storm, I had a planned trip to Washington D.C. to attend my brother’s wedding. Because of the storm, we ended up getting stuck in the city a few extra days. So I did what any travel obsessed millennial would do– took advantage the situation and explored. I mean there is no use in crying over spilt milk, right?
Of particular note, we were able to snag last minute tickets to visit the relatively brand new National Museum of African American Museum History and Cultural. This was very important to me because, of all the historical monuments I’ve visited none have celebrated or have been dedicated to my own history–our history as Africans forces to relocate to the Americas– regardless of whether your family went to the Caribbean or the Americas.
The museum begins well before the first slave ship left its origin shore to find its way to the West Coast of Africa. We’re introduced to a history that was entirely missed in the American school system and one that I’ve failed to research. The amount of information contained in the museum is overwhelming, to the say the least. When I think of a typical museum I think of sculptures, art, and beautiful objects to stare and admire. This was so much more. This was a history book plastered on the walls with its corresponding art. The museum is meticulous in its design and in its chronology.
There were small confessional rooms located on each floor. The floors were operated into three categories: 1) Slavery, 2) Segregation, and 3) Modern times. As a side-note, the fact there was only three categories was significant– it showed a harsh contrast between how far we’ve come and how close in history we are to segregation/ racism/ disparity / inequality..etc still. I love how the Museum incorporated the confessionals. Each floor was overwhelming and evoked an overbearing amount of emotions. Inside the confessionals, we were able to pick between a set of questions tailored to fit the emotions of the specific floor. We were then able to read the question, introduce ourselves, and give our honest responses and reactions. We were given the opportunity to keep the recording or to share it with the museum. As group we decided to do the confessionals together and share it with the museum.
Emmett Till had his own room, his own exhibition, and it was beautiful and devastating all at once. Plastered on the walls were quotes from his mother Mamie Till, Rosa Park, and other activists. There was a quote from his Mother that stood out to me the most and I chose to use it for my confessional.
Two months ago I had a nice apartment in Chicago. I had a good job. I had a son. When something happened to the Negroes in the South I said, `That’s their business, not mine.’ Now I know how wrong. I was. The murder of my son has shown me that what happens to any of us, anywhere in the world, had better be the business of us all. — Mamie Till.
This quote stuck with me because its applicability to our modern times is very real. Essentially, we will never move past from where we are currently until those who are unaffected by the institution of racism and white supremacy stick up from those who are affected. Minding your own business isn’t always the best practice when it comes to social issues.
In close, I had a amazing time that was made even better because of the people that I shared it with.
(there were more of us there! lol)
— Esquire in love.