This weekend, Marcus and I met some family in DC to explore the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Marcus’ aunt snagged enough tickets to make it a true family outing and so we couldn’t resist going along for a day trip.
The museum is absolutely stunning. From the exterior through each and every one of eight floors, the museum tells the story of this nations black population. So much symbolism and effort went into the building’s design and structure, built in by architect, Philip Freelon.
“From one perspective, the building’s architecture follows classical Greco-Roman form in its use of a base and shaft, topped by a capital or corona. For our Museum, the corona is inspired by the three-tiered crowns used in Yoruban art from West Africa. Moreover, the building’s main entrance is a welcoming porch, which has architectural roots in Africa and throughout the African Diaspora, especially the American South and Caribbean. Finally, by wrapping the entire building in an ornamental bronze-colored metal lattice, Adjaye pays homage to the intricate ironwork crafted by enslaved African Americans in Louisiana, South Carolina, and elsewhere.” -The Shape
“The enveloping lattice also opens the building to exterior daylight, which can be modulated according to the season. The openness to light is symbolic for a museum that seeks to stimulate open dialogue about race and help promote reconciliation and healing.” The Building
The building has a total of four levels and three addition levels underground. You start beneath the ground and work your way up working your way from the dark, slavery and civil rights, to the light with community and culture (like a said a lot of intent here).
From the lower levels, while sad, was not as heavy handed for me. I found myself as the Prepford Wife, heavily focused on the family and marital attributes of slavery. The bit about the wedding rings tugged at my heart and made me hold my husband a little closer and my marriage a little dearer. I am so grateful to be born in the time that I am where I have not only the human right but also the legal right to my relationship.
After the concourse we were STARVING. Food and drink is prohibited in the building which turns out to be purposeful. The cafeteria, Sweet Home Cafe, is a veritable spread of culturally relevant cuisine. My husband went for Northern foods, Creole Coast’s Gulf Shrimp and Grits and North State’s Smoking Hot Caribbean Pepper Pot (oxtail with pepper pot gravy), while I stuck with what I knew, The Agricultural South.
The floors I was most interested in were the up level floors four and five. So after the heaviness of the lower three levels, it was with great joy that I skipped my happy little butt through the top two floors. It seems I am who I am through and through. I was so excited to see the intersection of fashion and hair and religion and womanhood through the museum.
My favorite exhibition turned out to be one titled “Power of Place“, which talked about the actual spaces and landscapes that black peoples inhabit. My favorite turned out to be about Oak Bluffs, an African American community in Martha’s Vineyard. #OGBlackPreps I don’t really think there are any words for seeing myself validated and present in that way. I can’t ever recall a time where I saw so much of me in any museum ever.
And to think we almost left because of tired feet before I ever got to see that exhibit. Which by the way, did I mention, wear comfortable shoes?! I decided to wear my J. Crew Chelsea rainboots when I know with all my heart and all of my mighty that they pinch in the ankle. I even went as far as to bring a pair of comfy flats because of it. And then I still left them in the car because I was too lazy to carry my heavy boots if I changed and because they didn’t go with my outfit as well. *facepalm*
Either way, the museum was an absolute joy and if you have the opportunity to get timed passes, DO IT! You owe it to yourself. The Founding Director, Lonnie Bunch said it best. “This Museum will tell the American story through the lens of African American history and culture. This is America’s Story and this museum is for all Americans.”
So what about you. Have you been to the museum? Do you have plans to go?
XO Prepford Wife