I spent some time this weekend at the National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington D.C. I remember, when it opened a few years back, all the buzz it created, not just within the African American community, but in society at large. Many of the historical exhibits weren’t a huge surprise to me. What resonated with me though, was the way in which African American culture shaped the trajectory of US history; how it made us more self aware as a nation. Artistic expression played a huge part in creating this awareness by shedding light on the struggle in unique ways. There were so many unsung heroes who risked life and limb for the opportunity to be seen and treated as a human being and to enjoy the very inalienable rights American was founded upon.
It takes more than one visit to truly appreciate all the museum has to offer, but in the span of just a couple of hours, I left with a renewed appreciation for our history, how we suffered, how we conquered, and the sacrifices that helped expose injustice and encouraged a national conversation around discrimination and its affect on generations of black Americans.
Someone once said that history is written by the conquerors. But the museum is an enduring example of the fact that, more often than not, a “conquered” people can, with a collective voice, illustrate the devastating effects of injustice through prose, poetry and music. There are so many examples of this throughout the museum, all of which reminded me how vital it is that we use our talent and our voice as more than just an avenue for self-expression. Each of us, regardless of skill, have a responsibility to expose injustice wherever we may find it, and defend those who are unable to defend themselves.
Although my visit was far too short, I left with a renewed sense of pride for my heritage, and a profound appreciation for the trailblazers of years past, most of whom were not fortunate enough to see the fruits of their labors.
I didn’t get to take many photos, but here are a couple that resonated with me.
Have you visited the museum yet? Share your experience in the comments.