I was blessed to receive an invitation to the dedication ceremony and grand opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, D.C. last weekend.
The NMAAHC was established in 2003 in legislation signed by former President George W. Bush and is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture. The dedication ceremony featured President Obama and George W. Bush who both eloquently expressed the significance of the NMAAHC and its impact on our nation. Even though the crowd consisted of dignitaries and donors, everyone remained focused. We all knew we were invited for a greater purpose, to honor our heritage and culture. In the course of the dedication, you could feel the anticipation and gratitude in the air. I am so grateful I was able to partake in the momentous occasion.
My ancestor, Ida B. Wells, is among the many history makers included in the NMAAHC. It was a proud day for our family to see Ida honored during the dedication ceremony as well as throughout the museum. As I approached her exhibit displaying her tea set, on loan from our family, I was overwhelmed with emotion. Then I turned the corner and saw one of Ida’s quotes, on a main wall, for all to see. It sent chills throughout my entire body. I was speechless. My first thought was, Ida is finally getting the credit she deserves. As a result, fellow Americans will understand her influence and impact on our nation. They will now know that she was born into slavery but is now considered an American hero for her courageous efforts to expose the truth behind the lynching’s of African Americans. My next thought was, if Ida could use her voice during the post reconstruction era, we shouldn’t hesitate to uncover the truth behind the current treatment of minorities, specifically Black men, in America. Thus, we all have more work to do.
The NMAAHC highlights the history of America through the pain and power of the African-American journey and experience. From the moment I entered the building, I felt as if I had come home. I also felt the comfort from the souls of those who stood before me and those who have given their lives for my freedoms. I left the National Museum of African American History and Culture feeling empowered and inspired. Last Saturday was definitely a spiritual experience that I will always remember. I was not only proud to be a descendant of Ida B. Wells, I was also proud to be an American on that day, especially an African American. Peace and power.