I can only express my excitement and joy as an American, especially an African American, in welcoming the completion and opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. It is the fruition of a long and arduously fought dream, beginning in 1915 when Black veterans of the Union Army meeting in Washing D.C. celebrating the 50th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, organized a committee to build a monument honoring the contributions of recently freed slaves. Because of numerous roadblocks and attempts to dismantle this dream by oppressive forces, it wasn’t until 2003 when George Bush signed the National Museum of African American History and Culture Act that it was officially established.
The building was made possible with federal money and sizable private donations from many organizations, and well known Blacks such as Michael Jordan, Shondra Rhimes and Oprah Winfrey. The doors of this magnificent edifice were opened and dedicated on September 24. Despite all the odds and obstacles off setting the road to its completion, this dedication to the African American experience in American prevailed. The visitors to this monument can be given a true authentic view of the African American experience in America from a Black perspective.
This magnificent monument is a testimony of the struggle, strength, contributions, and perseverance of Blacks in America from their tumultuous and heartbreaking beginning. The museum consists of a building with five-stories above ground and four levels below ground. The building’s façade is largely of glass and is of a dark color, uniquely different from the other marble white buildings located in the National Mall. The museum contains 37,000 plus artifacts showcasing the journey and experience of Blacks in this country. Books, documents and original articles of art, clothing and furnishings are displayed. Numerous stories of courageous African Americans fighting and advocating for freedom and the right of full citizenship can be found within the museum.
I’m told, you will cry at the pain and struggle of African Americans, be amazed at their contributions to this country, and be humbled by their resilience and perseverance—despite the obstacles presented before them. It is a continuous story of dedication and love by a people for a country that often stood fast in denying them even the most basic rights. In light of all the racial tension existing in this country, this museum is affirmation and confirmation that Black lives matter.
Their toil and labor is rooted in every aspect of America. It should help serve as a catalyst to unite the country, showing everyone that we all are Americans, and we need each other.
Regardless of what you may have been told or taught about African Americans, once you visit this museum, you will have a greater appreciation and respect for African Americans. This museum can help our White counterparts understand our often dire situations in this country and help more of the good hearted and well-meaning people continue in their struggle advocating for full citizenship for African Americans. There’s no doubt that African Americans in this country have been trivialized, neglected, and oppressed. This monument can be a contributing symbol for recognizing and valuing the importance of African Americans.
It is of the utmost importance that African Americans who are unaware of their history make it mandatory to learn their history to understand where they have been, why they are where they are now, and what they need to do to go forward in a positive productive manner. The key to understanding your present situation lies in evaluating your past. This museum can serve as a major tool.
The museum is located on the National Mall in Washington D.C., which can only add to it visibility and importance. It should be a must-see site, explored by all American citizens as well as those visiting from abroad. While it has been a long time in coming, it is a blessing for the country in recognizing that Black history and culture is intertwined in all our history.
It is about time a long-suffering, proud people of beauty, intellect and spirituality are catapulted to their rightful place of respect and recognition. Our story and experience in America also validates our right to reparations. Compensation for wrongs committed toward African slaves and their descendants is necessary for America to truly go forward. This museum will help people understand the need of this country to rectify a great wrong.