The Smithsonian Experience: PART ONE

Last month I had the privilege of visiting the African American History Museum in Washington D.C. with my family. I had been wanting to go for a while now so when the opportunity presented itself we hatted up and rolled out to DC. To say the museum was overwhelming is a gross understatement: the sheer amount of history they managed to organize into one building is INCREDIBLE. I was really impressed. 

When we came into the museum we were instructed to start at the lowest level and work our way up. We took an elevator ride that was as eerie as it was anxiety-inducing; the doors opened up and you instantly felt like you were in the bowels of a slave ship. 

I had already finished Zora Neale Hurston's Barracoon by the time we made the trip to the museum. I made it my business to finish the book and I'm glad I did. Nothing that I saw on the lowest level surprised me. I was glad to see that the museum didn't mince words about the origins of the TransAtlantic Slave trade and all of the factors that played a role in how we got to The Americas. From Juan Garrido, Ayuba Suleiman Diallo and the king of Dahomey, Ahosu Ghezo - the museum did not sugarcoat a gotdamned thang! Click the links to read up on these people and connect the dots. It was more a way more complex story than what we have been inclined to believe. 

Kongo/Spanish Conquistador, Juan Garrido

 

The next thing that I marveled at was the sheer number of Africans that were sold and transported into the Americas. We already know that Black folks are universal but to see it laid out so plainly truly put a lot of things in perspective. When you think about how this forced Exodus effects Black people, no matter where we are, and how this traumatic event is now embedded into our DNA; when someone tries to tell you that slavery was a long time ago and it has no bearing on our lives today please feel free to kick them in their good knee. Nobody has time for Holocaust Denial. This shit was traumatic AF. 

All of this was in the first hour of our visit and I can't lie: as long as I've studied and educated myself on the ills of slavery it still made me cry. Being there with my family and being surrounded by hundreds of other black families was very emotional. We all had to take a moment every now and then to comport ourselves. What you study and read or even see re-enacted on screen doesn't hit you the same way as seeing actual numbers. Millions of black bodies uprooted and transported like cattle. When you think about these present day countries and their sustained wealth; how can you not be angry? How can you not feel cheated? It's crazy to me how Colin Kaepernick can catch so much heat for taking a knee when we have undeniable proof, timelines, and receipts to back up the fact that The Americas do not and have never respected black bodies. The cognitive dissonance is astounding!
Seeing all of the ways we resisted these atrocities was empowering and heartbreaking. We fought so hard to preserve something, anything, during times when not only was our humanity stripped from us but our native tongues, family structures, cultures, and spiritual practices. To see Black people in the Americas is to be reminded of the enslaved who refused to die without dignity, ancestors who risked life and limb to cobble together dialects, religious systems in a strange new world and who DARED to persevere and fight back. I'm getting emotional just thinking about it. 
I'll be back with a few more parts. I've barely scratched the surface of my experience but if you haven't been to the museum please try and check it out. They offer timed tickets a few months in advance but for the month of September you don't need a ticket during the week: just come through with your family on a weekday and see it for yourself. Click here for more info. 
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