If you have not been living under a rock then you know that the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is one of the hottest new things to hit DC. You might have to promise your first born or sell a kidney to get tickets but once you get past that step, you’re in! I have been fortunate enough to view the museum on more than one occasion and let me tell you: it’s LIT. Top to bottom, the entire museum is filled with goodies but I want to tell you guys about my 3 favorite parts. Today, we’re going to focus on just one.
“We had to make our own way, that’s the way it was.” – Mae Reeves
Located in the Community Gallery on level L3 (see map here), is the “Making A Way Out of No Way” exhibit. This section of the museum explores the ways in which African Americans have always worked “collectively to survive and thrive in the midst of racial oppression.” The museum shows how African Americans have made and continue to make a way out of no way in the areas of Faith, Activism, Education and Enterprise.
Christianity, Judaism and Islam are examined in their shaping of the faiths of African Americans. The activism portion highlights how the actions of Mary McLeod Bethune, the Divine Nine, Shirley Chisholm and more have contributed to black people in this country creating agency for themselves. Education is something that has long been celebrated in this community. There’s artifacts from actual classrooms and certificates from schools that catered to enriching the African American mind. In terms of enterprise, there are displays on Garrett A. Morgan, R.H. Boyd and the Pacific Parachute Company.
”It’s a testament to the resiliency of the human spirit, that despite the conditions we have known… we’re still here, still managing through it all to find a way to live life with dignity and a certain amount of nobility.” – August Wilson
This section is one of my favorites because it speaks to the resilience of us as a people. Black folks bounce back. We have endured a lot at the hands of this nation and yet, we continue to rise. We were enslaved, we fought back. We were shut out of places, we made our own. In cases where we did not make our own, people put their lives on the line for inclusion. Now integration clearly had its pros and cons (which is a whole conversation for another day) however, I appreciate the sacrifices those people made. I recognize that we would not be in many of the spaces that we are in today if they had not paved the way.
I also enjoy this section of the museum because it speaks to how we have always had communities and the ways in which we have supported each other. I have often heard “black folks have no sense of community” from fellow brothers and sisters throughout my life and I simply cannot stand behind that opinion. Not only is that a limiting belief, it’s also just not true. If you are black and you feel this way and you support your community, you have just proven yourself wrong. If you are black and you feel this way and you don’t support your community, then that is on you. Please do not bring the rest of us down to your level, thanks.
A lot of the information present in this exhibit was new to me and I appreciate NMAAHC for the education. If you get a chance to visit the museum, make sure to check out this exhibit and tell me what you think! If you’ve already been able to go, what were your favorite parts? For more pics of the exhibit, head over to my IG @thediasporian!