This is it. The intersectionalism (or parallels) of African history and culture and African-American history and culture⎯this is my happy place. So when timed passes for the ‘Blacksonian’ a.k.a. the National Museum of African American History and Culture opened up, I knew to snag four for a spring break visit with the fam.
You must secure a timed pass for NMAAHC three months in advance, so I secured our tickets in January. I had visited the Blacksonian with my girlfriends before, so I knew what to expect, and was excited to be experiencing it with Ev but I was hesitant to take the kids because there is a lot of emotionally heavy stuff, A LOT to see, thousands of square feet to cover over 5 floors!
You start by going through the time capsule (the glass enclosed elevator) down to the 15th century (the bottom-most floor) where you explore African kingdoms, the whys, hows and stories of the slave trade then make your way up through emancipation, reconstruction, segregation, jim crow, the black panther party, civil rights, women in the movement, culinary history (the sweet home cafe is LIT! African American food thematically displayed from the north, east, west and south of the country), music, art, sports, communities, literature, etc, etc…the list goes on and the artifacts brought to life are in the thousands! The museum opens at 10 and closes at 5 you need ALL eight hours plus four more to see everything.
I try to seek out African American history museums in cities I visit, like the African American museum in Philly I went to last year. because a picture is always more interesting when you see yourself in it⎯and history comes alive in museums because you can see and experience history in context. African history is all around us, and I’ve made it my mission to always seek it out. I was super excited when the mother-load of all African American history opened up in my city and I’m grateful to be able to take the girls there for free as part of the Smithsonian’s collection of museums.
I was pleasantly surprised when Ellie recognized some black (s)heroes her current obsession is Harriet Tubman because we told her Ms. Tubman’s family is Ashanti (like her daddy). She’s infatuated with the black Moses’s courage just as she is Nina Simone’s (her namesake).
I’m not gonna lie, there was some sad parts like the Emmet Till exhibit and having to explain to her what happened. But being able to stand in a real life slave shack, see Garret Morris’s gas mask invention, and see Nat Turner’s tattered bible really brought history alive for her.
The sad parts were quelled by the upper levels which showed black contributions to pop culture, music, literature, sports, etc. We left feeling really good, turns out the experience wasn’t too heavy after all and maybe my happy place of where African and African American history meet, will be a space that puts a spark in their eyes too.