I was buoyant to be part of the preview crowd at the soon to open Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum, as it slowly grew into it’s stacked corona on the Mall, grew on me. My companions in line said the same thing.
This is some raw thinkings delivered by a museum that riled me raw. After the party.
The party was awesome. There was a DJ and a hype man. Their day jobs are providing security at other Smithsonian properties on the mall. Tonight, they were party starters. They spun tunes-opening with Celebrate by Kool and the Gang which made me all nostalgic for my Sibling’s wedding as her new brother-in-law loosened his tie from his tux and pranced around the dance floor with a bottle of champagne in each hand–and asked the crowd (which was huge given there are just 200 employees and this was a family event, but the more the merrier when you’re celebrating) to hand dance and Wobble.
The dips and finger foods were generous, but the exhibits beckoned. That’s why we were here. I took the elevator down a few stories to a deep cavern which leads visitors through American history via the lens of African Americans. You follow an ascending ramp back up to the main floor. There is much to see and feel and think about as you walk the corridor.
There was part of one wall that told the horror story of families broken up on the auction block. In particular, the curators related the story of a woman who was being put up for sale who refused to let them take her child. Take her child away from her. Out of her arms. This was her baby.
As she screamed and held the baby dear, she was lashed by a whip. Still, she held on to her sweet child. And, still, she was beaten by the people who were going to sell her. And sell her child. And the bastards wrenched her heart, her precious baby, from her arms. This horror was depicted in an ink drawing.
As I turned away from the canvas, I saw a man. He was a father. His skin was the same shade as the mother in the drawing. The woman who was for sale. He was holding his sweet baby in his arms. I can’t stop thinking about him and his family, and the woman and her family from hundreds of years ago. And thinking about progress and the journey that we are still on as a country and as a people.
My mind is racing and boiling and roiling and recoiling. And thinking. More thinking.