|Brenda Alexander (far right) & fam|
By Brenda Alexander
I started on the history side from the ground up (which I advise all to do). My timed entry pass was for 10AM and by 3PM, I wasn’t even halfway through the history portion. After a while, I found myself skipping the reading portions and just admiring the artifacts to try and get everything in before the museum closed.
To save all of my future museum goers some trouble, I wanted to highlight some of the most profound exhibits to look forward to and a few tips on how to maximize your time there.
Emmett Till Memorial
I heard from almost every person that visited the museum that they could not bare the memorial out of fear that it would be too heavy a burden. But, if you can find the strength to walk through, I’d strongly advise you too. I will admit that it’s heavy. Walking towards the casket as negro spirituals ring out from the speakers, photos of a handsome and smiling Emmett hang from the walls with quotes from his mother and others makes it reminiscent of an actual funeral. You know his body isn’t there but you know the story and can feel the presence and somber of the time as if you were there. It’s powerful and an experience that’ll forever stick with you. You leave feeling a range of emotions: sadness for what occurred, pride for how his mother led a new movement and anger knowing that the woman responsible is alive and thriving today having never been prosecuted, along with the lives she protected.
Celebration of Oprah Winfrey’s Life and Career
One of my favorite parts of the museum was learning in extensive detail the plight of African American homeownership in this country. For those unaware, there were many black and prosperous communities besides Tulsa, Oklahoma – also known as the Black Wall Street. I won’t give them away (that’s why you must visit yourselves), but the exhibit features an actual home that was built in one of these communities. Within these communities, blacks could put down a deposit for as little as $5 or purchase land for as little as $50 and build by hand, multi-leveled homes to be passed down through generations.
Culture (All of it)
After touring the museum, I had dozens of questions on who was responsible for giving this prize to the world. You’re naturally curious and anxious to know how this gem came to be. Luckily, the museum has its own exhibit that details its long journey. It was a century in the making that had many setbacks, but thanks to one final push from OUR President Barack Obama, the museum made its debut in September of 2016 with the first African American President and Family in attendance. Now isn’t that a full-circle moment.
Register for your timed entry passes online and get your walking shoes ready. And if you can, take two days to really absorb all the museum has to offer. You’ll leave the museum feeling proud, appreciative and motivated- and even slightly ashamed for slacking in certain areas of your life after realizing just how much our ancestors endured.