The last couple of weeks, African-Americans have been in the news quite a bit, but in the most heartbreaking light. Even with the recent requirement of body cameras on police officers, the killings of unarmed black people have not lessened. With these recent killings caught on tape and available for the world to witness, it leaves people, especially black people in a state of anger, confusion, and despair feeling ultimately helpless. We are at a point where instead of typing hashtags for a couple of days and then moving on with our lives, we need to come up with solutions. I think that change starts with education; we, as black people need to educate ourselves of our history and inform the world of our true history. Therefore, the opening of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture could not have come at a better time.
This museum “follows the African-American experience through slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights era” It allows us to finally tell our history through our own perspective and celebrate our accomplishments as well as reflect on our tribulations. An establishment like this on the National Mall in the nation’s capital will serve as a constant reminder that black lives truly matter and so does our past, present, and future. People from all over the world will come to visit the Smithsonian and have access to a history of our people that paints a bigger picture than just slavery. In a world where our culture is appropriated and our history is twisted, I hope this museum will present an accurate depiction of our contributions to this country and the world at large.
Going to a historically black university only minutes away from the new museum, I’ve learned more about black history in just two years than all of my years of schooling pre-college. Literally, the only black history I was taught came from a few pages in the history books about slavery and civil rights. When I was in elementary and middle school I didn’t even question why Africa wasn’t included in our teachings of “world” history, but when I came to high school it bothered me that the core curriculum for all four years included nothing about black people. If you ask me about the Opium Wars in China or the Partition of India I could drop some knowledge for you. If you ask me about the Soviet Union or Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, I could probably tell you something about those too. But if you asked me about ancient African civilizations and empires like Nubia and Egypt or inquired about what Black Radicalism is, the conversation would end rather quickly. If I don’t know my own history, then the rest of the world definitely won’t know it, nor will they feel any desire to learn it. Just like it is custom to learn about European history as soon as we are allowed to go to school, black history needs to become a requirement to learn.
Even though this museum does not go as far back to include black history before the trans-atlantic slave trade began, it is representative of how far our people have come and it shows the beauty of our people’s struggle. Though we are making strides, a museum and the education of our history is still not enough. We need to stick together and show that we are still here and we are still fighting for equality. You can get involved with your community and join organizations and collectives like the Black Liberation Collective and Vision for Black Lives. Ultimately education and action are crucial for change. If what is going on in the world bothers you, I encourage you to make the conscious decision right now to make a difference in this world for the better.