Dear Sista Friend,
At a time when being Black is constantly being heavily criticized, it felt good to go to a place where African American culture was celebrated and placed on a pedestal. I had the honor of attending the National Museum of African American History and Culture on its opening weekend and I couldn’t have had a more intimate experience. Even though each floor of the museum was packed from wall to wall with people, I felt like I was in a place where I was alone and connecting with my Blackness.
I, like a few others, were worried if our history was going to be white washed or toned down. Would we get the elementary school versions of our history which is censored and doesn’t even graze the surface? Or were we going to get the raw, honest version that shined a light on the hypocrisy of our nation? The honesty of the museum was chilling and at many times left me speechless. There were so many odes to unknown accolades in our history. The museum shined a light on some of the darkest times of our nation. From Nat Turner’s rebellion, to lynchings, to lunch counter sit ins, to the shooting of Trayvon Martin; the museum covered it all.
The museum did a phenomenal job of glorifying our cultural contributions and achievements. The top floor of the museum is dedicated to Black excellence and success, with exhibits displaying our athletic, fashion, culinary, music and film contributions. The film section plays a rolling compilation of Black films, including scenes from Carmen Jones, Beverly Hills Cop, Malcolm X and The Color Purple. And of course everyone said in unison, “You told Harpo to beat me.”
It will take more than one or two trips to read each exhibit and look at every picture, but each trip will open my eyes to a piece of history that needs to be exposed. You can’t know American History with knowing Black History. This museum shows how the freedom this nation known for was built on hypocrisy and the backs of slaves. But it also shows how far we’ve come and how much we still have to grow.
Your Sista Friend,
Arielle Woodmore is a native of Nashville, TN. She graduated in May 2014 from Middle Tennessee State University with a degree in Political Science and Economics. She is currently a Legislative Associate in Washington D.C.