Lately my mind, and mommy time, has been spent on discipline in some way, shape and form. Whether I’m giving Tre the ‘eye’ when he whines or doling out a consequence for something he did…ugh, I’m over it. So I’m taking a break from to share my experience taking him to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
My sister was able to secure tickets months ago to the museum and it worked out that we went the day before my mother’s birthday, so what was a journey through African American history doubled as a birthday celebration for Grand T. Go Kim! I talked to multiple people who visited the museum and they warned me that based on its size, the number of visitors and the content, it may not conducive for a 4-year old. It was even suggested that he would need a stroller. I thought long and hard about it and talked it over with the hubs. In our game planning for the trip I first determined that a stroller was out of the question…he’s a little over 50lbs…his tail don’t need no stroller!
Then we discussed whether or not the content was appropriate for him. The hubs, in no uncertain terms said, “I want him to go to the museum.” Alrighty then. It was settled. So I packed up snacks and had the tablet charged for the ride down to DC.
The #blacksonian, as it has been affectionately called, is MASSIVE. It is BEAUTIFUL. It is
absolutely AMAZING. I was thankful that I was prepped for the size and number of people and Tre had prior experience with traveling to new places and visiting museums from our summer travels (Our Cali-style vacation!). So after finding great parking about two blocks away we embarked on our journey. I was initially struck by the size and beauty of the building as it is unlike any other Smithsonian. Then I was intrigued by the number of people who were enjoying the sitting areas and outside space while they ate from the food trucks or took group pictures and selfies. Museum visitors were so friendly and were openly looking to help those that didn’t have tickets. We were able to help a couple who were short a ticket and they were extremely grateful for our generosity. Having just visited the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in August, coming here felt different. It felt warm and welcoming and like I was in familiar place, and I felt all of this before I even got inside! Once we made it in, there were a lot of people, but the organization and procedures helped ease the angst. I absolutely loved seeing soo many brown faces; young and old, and those of other ethnicities.
We started our tour from the ground up going back to the pre-slavery then making our way to modern times. These three floors were the most crowded with lines and longer waits. How did Tre do? Remarkably well! There were areas to sit and when benches weren’t present he and my nephew camped out on the floor and waited until we moved along. The tablet and snacks came in handy…shh, don’t tell the museum we had snacks! Once we got in we were surrounded with larger than photos of prominent African American icons and facts about various topics. The exhibits are detailed. I found myseld wanting read every word, but with a busy toddler that wasn’t possible. Please know that this is not the kind of museum you can visit once and be finished with. It will take multiple visits and many hours to really get it all. I stopped along the way to read artifact captions to Tre and he was intrigued by the ability to really interact with the displays. He was especially struck with seeing displays of shackles used on children. This led to more explanation about slavery and the Middle Passage. There was also a replica of house a slave would have lived in and he asked quite a few questions about the size and structure of the home.
One of the most moving exhibits was dedicated to Emmett Till who was beaten and lynched after whistling at a white woman in Money, MS in 1955. As we waited in line I talked to Tre about what were going to see. I explained that a young boy was killed because he whistled at a white woman and that was something that was not allowed during those times. He was initially confused, yet intrigued and stared very quietly at the casket that once held Emmett’s young body. The videos and feel of the entire exhibit was very moving. Too much for a 4-year old? Some might think so, but we don’t.
The reality is that if my husband and I do not begin conversations with Tre about our culture and rich heritage who will? We feel a responsibility to teach him about our direct and distant ancestors that blazed trails and who are written down in history books for their contributions to the formation of our society. My husband told Tre to find and read about W. E. B. DuBois and tell him what he found and belive me, he was on the hunt for “W. E. Du-Bose” as he called him! Tre will learn that his great grandmother was the first African American school secretary in Akron, Ohio and that his great uncle was a philosophical and theological giant in and out of the pulpit. He will learn of the sacrifices his ancestors made that allow us to have the lifestyle we live and often take for granted. It is our hope that he will understand the rich legacy of his great grandparents and other relatives and how their lives shaped the foundations of our family.
If you were to ask Tre today about his experience at the National Museum of African American History and Culture he probably won’t tell you as much as I did! But you can be sure that I will be adding pictures from our trip to his scrap book and will continue to talk about it with him so that the experience can be engrained in his memory. If you have the chance to visit, please do. It is an amazing tribute to African American History and Culture. Thank you to the creators, curators and supporters. –Krystal