Visiting the Smithsonian NMAAHC

As a DC long-time resident, it’s surprising to others to hear that I’ve never been to the African American Museum. I have always wanted to go and when I planned to officially go, I was shocked to see that tickets were all “sold out” (they’re actually free). Before the visit, I thought it would be best if I asked for advice on how to “handle” the museum. On one occasion, I had the opportunity to ask my Uber driver questions like “where should I start?” She told me the bottom was the best place and that the museum takes hours to get through because of its importance. Of course I didn’t believe her, and it wasn’t until I was actually standing outside the Museum’s elevator doors that I welcomed the truth.

That this would take not hours but days.

Even as a first timer, I was still able to explain some of the exhibits to my partner Fuka. I also learned many things I didn’t get to learn from personal research and school. The most impactful exhibit I got to see was the Musical one. I asked a visitor if he could say anything about music and its relationship to African Americans. His words were that “without African Americans, there would be no music. Every aspect of music starting with drums was inherited from African culture.” Much of the music we had the chance to enjoy, such as Go Go, Rap, R&B, and Blues brought back many memories to the DC students, and the Japanese students also enjoyed many of the songs, especially Michael Jackson or the Jackson 5.

I also was stunned by the Emmett Till exhibit. There was much to explain about what happened to him at only 14 years old to the Japanese students who never heard of him, or the dehumanizing or discrimination against African Americans in America. Because of this, I found it very crucial to explain the significance of knowing this information especially as an African American myself. The most imperative information to show on such short time was the meaning of segregation and important African American figures and groups who fought for change over the centuries to today. Such as Malcolm X, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, the NAACP, the Black Panther Party, and many more. Fuka and I got the chance to learn more about slavery (things I hadn’t already told her) and the rebellions involved, such as the Maroons, who fought back against the oppression of their people, Bacon’s Rebellion, The Stono Rebellion, and Nat Turner’s Rebellion. As well as many women who stood up for civil rights and women’s rights.

There were many things I wish I had a chance to see and explain. I do plan on going back to endure every aspect of the museum in the future.

Arjernae Miller
Phelps ACE High School

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