October 2016, Opinion

New museum is especially important to HBCUs

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture held its grand opening on September 24, 2016 in Washington, D.C. After Thirteen years after being authorized to build, the 400,000-square-foot building was finally constructed on a five-acre site on the National Mall, close to the Washington Monument.

Standing in the heart of Washington D.C’s cultural site, According to the New York Times the creators of the museum did not want to build a space for a black audience but for all people of different ethnicities. “This is a great way of sending a powerful message that the African-American story is an American story, the museum explains that it was African Americans that helped build this country” said Samara Jordan, Clark-Atlanta Alumna from Harlem, New York.

According to the museum’s website the building three-tiered shape evokes a traditional Yoruban crown. The exterior crown is made of 3,600 bronze-colored cast-aluminum panels. The distinguishing architecture alternatively symbolizes hands lifted in prayer, which represents an expression of faith, hope and resilience. “Seeing the museum was a beautiful experience, there were so many people there waiting for the museum to open. It was also an emotional experience, walking through the museum was a reminder of how much pain my people had endured. Yet many African Americans were able to accomplish so much” said Kebra Hutton. The African American History and Culture museum, displays their exhibits in chronological order rather than thematically. This decision is written into the architecture itself, as visitors descend 70 feet below ground to begin the historical journey centuries ago with the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

“I am excited to see the outcome of the museum. There hasn’t been an African American museum in years this can be a visual understanding for those who are not of color to fully understand how oppressed we were then and how oppressed we are now,” said Leah Waldo, a senior from Washington D.C.

The museum meets head on America’s history of slavery and racial oppression. Yet, while memorializing suffering, the museum wants even the most depressing artifacts to have a positive message.

As a student of color attending a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) I strongly believe that students, especially students of color, should take heed of what happened throughout American history and how it is affecting us in the present day. In spite of what is happening in today’s world. Understanding our history and realizing that it was African Americans who helped built this country.

The museum will also tell history that is continually involving such as documents of the presidency of Barack Obama; artifacts reflecting events like Black Lives Matter protests highlight inequality and police brutality.

Visitors will be able to leave their own thoughts at public video booths. After such powerful displays, they can also sit in a space called the Contemplative Court to come to terms with what they have witnessed.

“Planning a trip to D.C. to attend the African American museum will be a great way to fully understand the contributions that African Americans have made in this country. I believe that all HBCU students should go whenever they are in the D.C area. It would be nice if maybe St Aug planned a trip,” said Brittany Jennings, junior from Upper Marlboro, Maryland.

As reported to me by many people who’ve attended the museum the tickets for the remainder of the year are sold out. Tickets will not be available until January 2017.

 — Laquasia Jackson