President Barack Obama hailed the opening of The National Museum of African American History and Culture as “a richer and fuller story of who we are” during his speech at the opening ceremony on Saturday afternoon. “By knowing this other story, we better understand ourselves and each other,” he continued as he persuaded Americans that African American history is ‘central,’ not separate, from American history.’
It has been 100 years since the museum was first proposed and 13 years after it was officially authorized by Congress. Now, the National Museum of African American History and Culture is open in Washington DC to the public. Heralded by a weekend of celebrations and speeches from Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith, Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and former president George W. Bush, who signed the 2003 bill to authorize the museum, the opening was a mini inauguration. But what exactly are we celebrating?
The exhibits in the museum range from Slavery to Emancipation, Segregation to Today and Community and Culture. Slavery and Emancipation is self explanatory; tackling the trans- Atlantic slave trade and racial oppression of African Americans. Segregation to Today reflects on the gruesome and bleak images of Emmett Till and associated images of “white only” spaces and race riots. Community and Culture speaks on the milestones that African Americans have made in history through sports, entertainment and other industries. But, no one wants to talk about the story before slavery. No one wants to emancipate the minds of black Americans and remind them that their ancestors were the forefathers of civilization. Our history always starts with slavery and that my friend is false documentation of the true Black experience.
But, timing is no coincidence. I firmly believe that the National Museum of African American History and Culture is only a powerful distraction to the racism-based murders of unarmed black men and women by white police officers. Its like saying, “See Black Americans, your’e equal! Here’s a museum.” Turn on the news and the reality is we are not equal. Our lives are not valued. Our worth goes unnoticed hidden in the depths of history. Museums are supposed to unearth history, not perpetuate the ‘controlled knowledge’ that contumaciously keep us enslaved and ignorant about our history as a people. It’s a cycle. Tell us one thing and do another.
This article is not just for black people. But for everyone who has been oppressed. This is a manifesto, a call to action that charges us to critically think about our place in society and the narratives that are being shared about about experience. We have to stop the “powers that be” who control what our kids learn about their heritage, ancestry, culture and future. It is our job to research our history and inform our generations about the truth. We cannot rely on donors or the government to provide a platform that will adequately tell our story. Our history is so rich and full that if the truth ever got out, it would reshape our current paradigm. So thanks for building a beautiful museum, but you can keep it. We know that slavery story too well.