I decided to take a break, sort of, from the barrage of political “stuff” and focus on something so extraordinary for our nation and each of us whose time has come, finally. This week President Trump visited the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History & Culture. Accompanying Trump for the tour was his daughter Ivanka Trump, adviser Omarosa Manigault, Ben Carson and his wife, Candy Carson. Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King was also present.
The group was accompanied by museum director Lonnie Bunch as they toured the museum. The tour even included in its various exhibits “The Paradox of Liberty,” with one honoring Dr. Ben Carson, the nominee for secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. In the previous week, after Trump’s press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, first lady Melania Trump hosted his wife, Sara Netanyahu, on a visit to the museum.
The women were accompanied by museum director Lonnie Bunch and the Smithsonian’s secretary, David Skorton. According to Katherine Faulders (Feb 21, 2017, ABC news), “Melania Trump reportedly said in a statement after the visit, ‘As we remember, with deep humility and reverence, the historic plight of slavery, which the Jewish and African-American people have known all too well, we rededicate ourselves to those powerful words that both our nations hold dear: Never again.’”
The museum opened on September 24, 2016 with former President Obama ringing of the historic Freedom Bell from the First Baptist Church in Williamsburg, Virginia (which was organized in 1776 by slaves). He was accompanied by his wife, Michelle Obama, former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush, among others. They all spoke about the progress the museum encompasses and the importance it has on our society today. According to Dave Quinn, People magazine (posted Sept 24, 2016), Obama shared “We’re not a burden on America or a stain on America or an object of shame and pity for America – We are America,” . . . And that’s what this museum explains. Hopefully, this museum makes us talk to each other and listen to each other and see each other.”
Many may not know that legislation for establishing this museum as the first solely devoted to the history and culture of African-Americans was first authorized by Bush in December 2003. Bush made similar statements ahead of Obama with “The lesson of this museum is that all Americans share a past – and a future,” . . . Pointing to how the museum showcases America’s commitment to truth, capacity for change and talent of some of its finest Americans . . . By staying true to our principles, righting injustice, and encouraging the empowerment of all, we will be an even greater nation for generations to come . . .“
But the story doesn’t begin or end there. What is also amazing . . . more than 100 years ago, 1915 in fact, there were efforts to establish a federally owned museum dedicated to African-American history and culture. The hope was to commemorate African-American veterans of the Civil War. Unfortunately, funding wasn’t approved and broader efforts didn’t emerge again until the 1970s, 1988, and finally authorization in 2003 by an Act of Congress. A site was selected in 2006. Ten years later, opening ceremonies were celebrated.
Today, the National Museum of African American History and Culture is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture. The Museum has collected more than 36,000 artifacts and nearly 100,000 individuals have become charter members. As of February 20, 2017, in just a short six months being open, the museum boasts one millions visitors. There are four pillars the museum stands on:
- It provides an opportunity for those who are interested in African American culture to explore and revel in this history through interactive exhibitions.
- It helps all Americans see how their stories, their histories, and their cultures are shaped and informed by global influences.
- It explores what it means to be an American and share how American values like resiliency, optimism, and spirituality are reflected in African American history and culture.
- It serves as a place of collaboration that reaches beyond Washington, D.C. to engage new audiences and to work with the myriad of museums and educational institutions that have explored and preserved this important history well before this museum was created.
You may wonder, “What is so extraordinary about Trump and others visiting this museum?” Here’s another question for you. What can you glean from reading this article and cruising through the museum’s website?
Notice what notables across all political and national boundaries took the time to see the exhibits. Could it be they are all trying to tell us, even show us, something? Maybe, we just may gain a glimmer of hope and a challenge for us all to see how the history and heritage of a people who are also called “Americans” have shaped our nation’s heart and lives?
Don’t you think the time has come to “Time Out” trashing each other and begin to “Treasure” their time in our nation’s history.
My hope and prayer is every American family will someday, sooner than later, visit this life-altering museum as a living museum touching every generation now and in the future. If that doesn’t seem possible to you, there is absolutely nothing stopping us right now from living the heart of what this museum offers us in our own home and community. If our Presidents of every political persuasion can join together with respect and kind words for each other in support and honor of this grand endeavor and accomplishment, shouldn’t we also do the same?