I was in awe when I visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland Ohio ( which I covered in What Can RNC-ers Do While In Cleveland, Ohio? Here Are Some Options. ). I did not expect to see so many mentions of LGBT performers as well as historical events. It was an emotional experience that was great sharing with great friends. I cannot wait to see this new addition to the Smithsonian family in one month's time.
The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture will open to the public for the first time on September 24, 2016. The 400,000-square-foot, five level structure will present a view of America through the lens of the African American experience. Visitors will also see contributions to history made by LGBTers of African descent as their stories are woven into the fabric of the broader story of African American life.
“It’s difficult to tell the story of African American history and culture without acknowledging the accomplishments and contributions of African Americans who cover a spectrum of identities and experiences, including gender identities and orientations,” says Aaron Bryant, a curator at the museum. “Our goal is to tell the story of America’s history through an African American lens, and so the museum embraces and celebrates the fact that black communities are diverse, as is American culture and history.”
In the Taking the Stage exhibition, visitors will see a poster from the groundbreaking semi-documentary “Tongues Untied” by Marlon Riggs along with playbills from “The Colored Museum” by George C. Wolfe, and “A Raisin in the Sun,” by Lorraine Hansberry. LGBT contributions to dance are also represented in this exhibition with photographs by Jack Mitchell of Alvin Ailey and a clip from “D-Man in the Waters” by Bill T. Jones. Several paintings by LGBT artists including Malvin Gray Johnson, Earle Richardson, and Beauford Delaney will be showcased as part of the Visual Arts exhibition. In the same gallery, there will also be a piece by Lorna Simpson that she created for the Art Against AIDS project in 1989.
The Making a Way Out of No Way exhibit, has items and references to Langston Hughes and James Baldwin, including Baldwin’s passport. Images of gay activism are included the A Changing America gallery. Here, visitors will find a graphic image of a man at the 1995 Million Man March carrying a sign that starts with the statement, “I am a black, gay man.” The original photo was taken by photographer Roderick Terry. The exhibit also includes a gay liberation button. A myriad of other items connected with the African American LGBT experience will be featured across several exhibits.
Bryant asserts, “The lives and contributions of LGBT communities are an integral part of the larger story we tell. These stories aren’t isolated or segregated from the larger narrative, but are a natural and intrinsic part of the broader story we’re sharing regarding the broad contributions of African Americans to American history and culture.” – centerforblackequality.org
For more video, there is a 66 minute hard hat tour of the museum over at C-SPAN.org
The museum does have a large collection of artifacts that will rotate into new exhibits. And with today becoming history tomorrow, curators are collecting new pieces even as we
speak read. Among other things, they are paying attention to both the Black Lives Matters and Trans Lives Matters movements and photography cover said movements.
When asked what is the main thing that people should know about the Museum of African American History and Culture, Bryant replies, “This museum has been a long time coming and now we’re here. We are a 21st century museum that represents America in all of its layers and complexities. And as an organization, we are as much about representing the present and future, as we are about preserving our nation’s past.” – centerforblackequality.org
To learn more about the museum and its opening, visit nmaahc.si.edu