The National Museum of African American History and Culture opened its doors Sept. 24. More than 28,000 visitors awaiting the day traveled from all across the country in order to be a part of the opening ceremony, which was a weekend full of festivities that commenced with speeches and appearances by world-renowned African Americans such as President Barack Obama, Oprah and Will Smith.
Courtesy: Photography by Imani Yorker
Having interned for a Smithsonian office this past summer, I knew that it would be hard to get access to the museum its opening weekend, let alone its opening day. But I was able to visit the museum not long after it’s grand opening, Oct. 9, and was completely astonished, amazed and thankful for the lessons learned. I gained an increased appreciation for the culture of my ancestors presented in the museum. I was lucky to have been afforded the opportunity to visit the museum so soon, because even though it is free entry, tickets to visit are currently booked until mid-March.
The lowest level of the museum contains a history exhibition that follows the lineage and past of African Americans, and their existence tracing all the way back to the 1300s. As levels rise, the exhibitions and archives move into representations of African Americans through a progressive and cultural light, resembling the more common roles African Americans play in current-day society.
Exhibitions range from a sports exhibit, showing all the famous African American athletes over time, a huge music section with music from Michael Jackson to Sam Cooke to D.C.’s own go-go. There is also a small section on natural haircare, fashion exhibits, musical and film exhibits.
My favorite exhibit that I’ve visited (so far) was the music exhibit. There was such a wide variety of music, videos, props from music videos and albums from over the years. I listen to music at all waking moments of my day. Yes, I have “Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes” station on my Pandora, but I also have Lauryn Hill, Bob Marley and Rae Sremmurd.
The section of the museum where visitors were able to select the music or album of their choice and let it play through the speakers in the museum was awesome as well, because so many people were able to connect and enjoy each others’ presence through shared musical taste.
Overall, the museum was an awesome experience that I would not trade for the world. It was hard for me to pick just one favorite part, because all of the exhibits are such essential and critical pieces to the complete puzzle of African American people and our legacy. I encourage everyone, regardless of race and background, to get out and visit the museum whenever they see fit. It will be a great experience, I promise.