blackest thing, Featured, Pop Culture, Race & Politics

The National Museum of African American History and Culture Is The Blackest Thing I’ve Ever Seen This Week…and Ever

I’ve been to the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) twice so far – yes, that was a stunt – and it is easily the second Blackest place I’ve ever been in life. The Blackest? I’m glad you asked. That would be in the southeastern quadrant of Washington, DC, where Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue intersects with Malcolm X Avenue; this corner features a liquor store, a park full of vagabonds, and the coup de grace: Popeye’s.

It is indeed, the Blackest place in America. In fact, I contend that the Blackest thing you can do in this country is eat some Popeye’s chicken wearing a dashiki while listening to DC’s own Marvin Gaye at this intersection. Ask about me. Photos coming soon.

img_6299Back to the NMAAHC, it’s a beautiful Black ass place and I love it. It wasn’t just that every 10th person had on a dashiki on opening day, or that there were people wearing tuxedos standing next to people in graphic tees with Black fists standing in line together to get in. Nor was it that all three verses of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” are inscribed on one of the walls as people hummed while they read. Or even the fact that the cafeteria specifically made sure to have good, quality soul food – appropriately named the Sweet Home Café – and the smell permeates the third floor so much that you are almost lifted off your feet and wafted towards the catfish.

It’s that there were so many Black people looking at so much Black stuff feeling so much Black pride in accomplishments of both those exhibited throughout the museum, but of the museum itself. It is a marvel. It’s expansive. It’s huge. It’s awesome. And yes, that is all what she said. Every person who has been will undoubtedly tell you that it is impossible to fully take in the museum in one sitting. You just can’t. There are too many exhibits and too many floors. You could easily spend an entire day on the bottom floor itself.

In fact, let’s talk about the layout.

There are what seems to be 7 floors, three below ground and four above ground. The below ground levels are where I’d imagine most people would start their journey. You have to go downstairs into a dark and cavernous hallway exhibit that takes you from the 1400s and the beginnings of the slave trade (it feels like you’re in the hull of a slave ship, figuratively, of course) all the way through the civil rights era of the 60s. There are so many facts. So. Many. Facts. There is an actual slave shack.

Read that again.

img_6295There is an actual, in tact, slave shack from South Carolina that was built in about 1853 and was STILL erect on its original site in 2013. Nevermind that whoever built that shack has to be the greatest engineer of all time, but it’s an actual slave shack where somebody’s cousins use to live. There is an exhibit that has the names of all of the slaves at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello who helped build it. There’s Harriet Tubman’s shawl and Nat Turner’s bible (speaking of Nat Turner and thus Nate Parker, can SOMEBODY please take away the microphone from him at all times; he’s now on the “Don’t Be Their Publicist” Hall of Fame with Chris Brown, Isaiah Washington, and Donald Trump). There are whips. There are chains. There are pieces of a slave boat. It’s deep. It’s moving.

As you move up the ramps, you head to the 2nd level which moves towards Blacks early settling in all Black towns and political movements and into the Civil Rights era. There is a guard tower from Angola prison in Louisiana. There is a Jim Crow railroad car with its split whites only and Blacks only cabins. There are ALL the “White’s Only” signs making you realize just how creative white people were back then because SO MANY DIFFERENT TYPES OF SIGNS. There are Woolworth’s lunchcounter chairs. There are the minstrel toys.

There is Emmett  Till’s casket.

Look, I’ve been to a lot of museums. Mine eyes have seen the glory, but there was something about looking at the casket that once held the mutilated body of Emmett  Till that was jarring. To be Black in America is to know the story of Emmett  Till. Obviously he is not IN that casket, but to know that once upon a time, the body of a boy who became a lynchpin of the Civil Rights Movement for doing nothing more than being a boy was difficult.

As you move further up the ramps are videos depicting the various parts of the struggle and of Black life in general.

Oprah Winfrey’s couch. Hip-hop. And that’s all just on the journey from slavery to the present. On the top floors are various galleries dedicated to sports, music, culture, military, art, etc. Blackness is all around you. I’ve been twice and still haven’t seen it all. And despite my HISTORIC musical leanings, I still didn’t see the music level which based on conversations I’ve had with people, that level was tailor-made for me.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that fact that Dr. Ben Carson of “Gifted Hands” fame and current “bish whet” fame also has a very prominent exhibit. As I walked by I noted that I’ll bet every Black person just walks by, looks at it and shakes their had disapprovingly, to which a couple standing there busted out laughing and agreed. It’s an SNL skit in the making if I’ve ever seen one.

On Wednesday – the last time I went, I was also able to go on Opening Day though the sheer number of people plus pushing a tandem stroller made it fairy impassable – I remarked to my best friend that I didn’t ever want to leave. There was so much to see and so much Blackness all around that felt good that I couldn’t see a good reason to actually leave the museum, seeing my children again, notwithstanding.

And to make it even more Black, advanced tickets for the museum are actually “sold out” through the end of the year, though limited day passes will be made available everyday for that day only. The museum is a wonder and it’s a treasure, and at night it lights up with pictures and even a “Black Lives Matter” slide show. It don’t get no Blacker than that.

Forever? Forever ever?

Forever ever.

You should go.

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is pretty fly (and gorgeous) for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. He refuses to eat cocaine chicken. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future. You can hit him on his hitter at panamadjackson@gmail.com.

  • Will definitely be one of 1st things I visit when get down to DC

    • LMNOP

      Get your tickets ahead of time! Like months ahead of time.

    • PhlyyPhree

      Yup. What LM said. The next batch of reservations opens Monday for Jan-Mar

      • Where AP at with the tickets doe

  • Detroit Skater

    i can’t put a date on it right now, but i will be visiting.

  • lilylawyer

    I.Can’t.Wait. I hope to plan a trip there with my mom, aunt and cousins next year. To share that with them would be amazing.

  • JusticeNotServed

    as a canadian who has visited miami, seattle, LA, new york and many major american cities in between this is compelling enough reason to visit washington. i mean, other than to see that house we burned down in 1814

    • Don’t do this.

      • JusticeNotServed

        lol i’m playing. part of the reason i dropped that incendiary bit at the end is because i went to the website and was disappointed to see i cant get in till 2017

        • Cleojonz

          This actually isn’t true, the timed passes haves already been distributed through the end of the year, but they still have same day passes that you wait in line for. These are first come first serve basis though so you’d have to get there really early to make sure you could get in that day.

          • LMNOP

            Does anyone know what the odds of getting a ticket are if you show up early?

            • Cleojonz

              These first few weeks probably not good lol. We’re probably talking camping out. The plus side is not everybody has to be present, they’ll give up to 4 to one person.

            • Janelle S

              Lower on weekends than during the week. When I worked at another major museum, we would soft-launch stuff on Mondays or Tuesdays because those are the least busy days of the week.

              • LMNOP

                What about Thanksgiving day? I could see that going either way.

                • Janelle S

                  I don’t know about Thanksgiving (that was one of our 3 annual days of being closed), but the day after was pretty popular. Folks have family in town and need to get them out of the house = “let’s go to the museum!”

    • hey fellow canuck! LMFAO @ your last sentence.

    • You Canadians are still wilding about the War of 1812. Next time, use your own names! LOL

      • JusticeNotServed

        oui! *laughs in quebecois*

    • -h.h.h.-

      as a canadian who has visited miami, seattle, LA, new york and many major american cities in between this is compelling enough reason to visit washington. i mean, other than to see that house we burned down in 1814

      so in short, you just come to the US to see the Stanley Cup and see how shiny it is now? since it hasn’t left the United States this century?

      eh?

      • JusticeNotServed

        ice cold my dude. i was visiting my cousin in chicago last december and we caught bulls, bears and blackhawks games. i’m not gonna lie i’m quite jealous of all those banners in the rafters at the united center.

      • Kas

        I did not see that coming from you. Well done sir.

    • NonyaB

      Yay Canuckia!

  • QueenRaven23

    I’m planning to go next year. It’s so important that I decided to wait on Hamilton tickets in lieu of going home to Washington DC.

  • fedup

    Wait, how de hail you get in TWICE! I had to have 5 computers, 3 phones, a wing AND a prayer going on 9/6 just to get my family in for 9/26 (couldn’t even get tix for the weekend, even though we were up and in cue at 6am)!

    I’m not hatin PJ, just wanna know how you got that.

    And yes, I fully concur, it was unapologetically Black, beautiful, breathtaking, overwhelming, and tear inducing. I don’t known when I can make it back out to D.C. again, but trust and believe I will be going back.

    • panamajackson

      As soon as I saw the link available, I went and got the first set of tickets I could find. Then I got another set.

      On Saturday while I was randomly out at a birthday party with the family, we got a phone call like, “yo, we got tickets for the museum today…grand opening day.” Birthday party done. We headed down.

      I’m lucky. I got people.

  • brothaskeeper

    Was Biggie’s belt there? Also, I’m scared of the first conversation a Black person has with a YT person who went to the AA Museum.

    • Ari

      “Was Biggie’s belt there?” *Looks for Aliya King…

      I miss her posts. :(

      • Kristijgooch2

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    • grownandsexy2

      When I visited the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, I made sure to walk thru alone. Didn’t want to do the tour thing cause I just knew some white person would say something stupid.

      • fedup

        Probably not the place for this comment, but…

        During the opening ceremony, there was a small group of wypipo standing in front of me, and this Sista went and locked arms with them during the national anthem. Then (and I think it was during Dr. Bunch’s speech), she went to them gave them all hugs, and took pictures with them.

        Now, I don’t practice hating people I don’t know, and those people had as much right to be there experiencing this thing with us (and there were MANY wypipo there, even one fool who had the nerve to try to block people’s sight right before Living Colour came on stage), BUT: I can’t understand why she felt the need to go out of her way to try to make those people feel welcome? N one was bothering them. And I never saw her go out of her way to embrace any of our folk the way she did them.

        I kinda felt like “Can’t (for just once) Black people have something that is just about us, for us, without it being A) infiltrated by wypipo, and B) having to make sure they feel welcome and secure in our space?

        Is that wrong? No, seriously though, am I wrong for feeling like that?

        • grownandsexy2

          You feel as you feel and ain’t nothing wrong with that. At least you’re honest about yours. I’ve had occasion to feel as you do and not ashamed to say it. I’ve observed BP such as this woman. They go out of their way to pander to whites but won’t even give you a nod. I think some of us wanted to be accepted so bad by whites, it kind of borders on pathetic. Like if they pander hard enough, whites will look at them as equals. Kind of makes me sick when I see it and I see it in the workplace a lot.

          • Mochasister

            I don’t give a d*** about making wypipo feeling welcome in Black oriented events. I would not be mean or otherwise antagonize them, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to make them feel comfortable or like they belong. They have spent centuries making sure we knew that we didn’t belong or weren’t really wanted or welcome. Still act this way as far as I am concerned. It’s not going to kill them to feel “uncomfortable” being the “minority” for a few hours. We all know that once they leave said Black oriented events they will return to their white supremacist society that favors them.

            • grownandsexy2

              If they’re uncomfortable at a black-oriented event, then it makes sense to stay home, to me at least. We are made to feel uncomfortable every day in one form or another, a lot of times, unexpectedly. Take me for example. I work in a small (I don’t see color) office. I’m the only black person on that side. (There is black guy on the other side but that side wasn’t in attendance and the black guy is a story for another time)

              A client had dropped off a cake so the head partner invited us all in the conference room to partake. The controversy a Mizzou had been in the news for some time. Now as I understand it, the president was asked to step down because he wasn’t responsive to the students of color demands that they not be harassed (both blatant and subtle) on their own campus. We were all siting at the conference table making light-hearted conversation, when the partner, who was sitting next to me, blurted out, “the nerve of the students at Mizzou making the president step down.” If anyone other than me felt anything, you couldn’t tell. Imagine how I felt sitting there. You think anyone gave a d*** about how I may have felt? He sure didn’t. I wanted so bad to turn to him and say, “so black students don’t deserve to learn in a hostile free environment? So no, I won’t be attending any other impromptu gatherings in the conference room.

              Then there was a co-worker where I used to work who was stressing over the fact that a BW, who she was friendly with at a former job, invited her to her baby shower. She was going to be the only white there. She stressed all day about how she didn’t want to attend for that reason, and how uncomfortable she’d be. I told her to keep her azz home if she felt that way. And she saw nothing wrong with voicing her fears with me. She used to crack me up tho. She hated everybody (she was Irish) but depending on the ethnicity of the person she was with at the time, denigrated every other ethnicity. She made a slur against blacks in the presence of a Latina in the office, not knowing the Latina had black relatives. Chile . . . . . . . .

        • Mary Burrell

          I know I need to be a better person but I kind of share your annoyance we just can’t have nothing to ourselves. Why do they always have to come in our spaces. They despise us yet they want to high jack our culture. But they don’t want to understand and empathize when we talk about black lives mattering. They get mad when we protest whether it’s silent and kneeling or we are raising our voices out of anger and frustration at an unjust system that wants to silence us.

          • HoneyRose

            An African American history museum paid for by public funds is not “our space” – nor should it be, really. Why would we want to keep the glorious history of our people and our struggles to ourselves? The purpose of a museum like this should be for people to learn, to learn about how black people have been treated in this country and to learn about all of the contributions we have made to American culture. If they don’t go they stay ignorant forever.

            • Blueberry01

              Yes, hair in avi!

        • raul

          White person here to tell you how to feel…just kidding.

          There is a sting to being “othered” but given the historical context I can understand it. If the positions were switched I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t even feel guilty for feeling that way.

        • Laurie Pfisterer

          Are you wrong? Idk, far be it for me or anyone else to pass judgement on you about what you feel. Nobody else is in your shoes; I’m certainly not.
          But for the record, you’re doing exactly that right now by dismissing this woman as a pandering uncle tom.

          • fedup

            I’m not dismissing the woman, I’m questioning her actions, in a certain context. Big difference. I don’t know her from Adam. Don’t be so quick to seek an up vote that you don’t critically analyze your your response before you post (lest someone think YOU to be the pandering uncle Tom, trying excuse a team mate).

        • Mochasister

          No. You are not wrong. Although they have a right to be there, I feel like it is intrusive. Wypipo always want to be included, but it’s ok for them to exclude others. I feel that a lot of them really don’t care for Black people deep down inside. So why are they always rushing to go to Black oriented events?

        • Brother Mouzone

          You ain’t wrong

    • Hammster

      What happened to Aliya?

      • brothaskeeper

        mm MMM mmm! Prayerfully, she’s reasonably burdened with work.

    • Janelle Doe

      You remind me of a story of someone asking why there was an exhibit of the Rwandese genocide at the holocaust museum. Apparently the response was an awkward silence…

      • brothaskeeper

        That person should’ve been dropped down a trap door.

        • Janelle Doe

          agreed. Not all moments are teachable moments… it gets tiring explaining all the time.

      • HoneyRose

        The thing is, the freaking museum explains it right there on the walls. So if the person had actually READ any of the placards they would know!

        (Also, the last time I went the Rwandan genocide was in an exhibit displayed alongside two other prominent genocides – Srebrenica and Kosovo, I think – so it;s real suspect that they asked only about Rwanda.)

      • pookel

        Huh. I didn’t know that there was. I guess I don’t understand it entirely myself, but if there’s an exhibit about other genocides in general then of course that makes sense.

        Rwanda’s another one that really could fill a whole museum by itself. The scale of it is incomprehensible. Even Hitler didn’t kill people that fast and in broad daylight.

  • Amazonian Midget

    I went yesterday, and I’m still processing everything I saw. It was intentional, beautiful and absolutely incredible. I was there for 3 hours and didn’t get to see everything, so I’m looking forward to my November visit.

    • grownandsexy2

      I got tickets for Thanksgiving. Can’t wait to see it. First stop, Sweet Home Cafe.

      • Amazonian Midget

        I didn’t eat there because of the insanely long line, but it smelled sooo good!

      • Look here neighbor…
        Take some pics for me, food and all, lol

        • grownandsexy2

          I keep my camera with me so pictures will be taken.

    • panamajackson

      Yeah, I got one more visit for October planned. I need to see the top floor.

      • Amazonian Midget

        Same here. I missed some things in the Journey to Freedom section too, like Emmett Till’s casket. Had NO idea it was there!

      • Mochasister

        About how much time do you think one would need to see all of the exhibits? A week? Two weeks? I visited DC in 2015 and drove past the as yet unfinished site. I would definitely travel back just for the museum.

  • MsMogul

    I have 6 tickets for the 22 and 6 tickets for the 29th. My moms birthday is the 29th, but she wanted to play bumper cars in traffic. I only need one on the 22nd so I have 11 up for grabs.

    • L8Comer

      What?? 11? Can I have two? Please?

      • MsMogul

        Yeah I’m a planner I’ll be damned if I don’t have an invite to the party. Email me dnj@m21i.com. I’ll forward you the two tickets.

        • L8Comer

          Thank you so much! If you’ll be there on the 22nd let me know, id love to say thank you in person and buy you a drink or something!

          • MsMogul

            You asked first but like 10 people slid in my email, so I don’t even know which email was from you. What’s the first two letters of your email address?

            • L8Comer

              They’re JR. I think you got me though, I just responded to your email

        • L8Comer

          Sent :)

        • Iwanthamma

          Ok. You didn’t really give me permission to email you…but I did. I am unashamed to ask a perfect stranger for these tickets. No hard feelings if you’re like…Girl Bye! But I had to ask.

          • MsMogul

            You’re all good. What’s the first two letters of your email address?

            • Iwanthamma

              Tu

              Thank you! All my life I had to fight!!

    • QueenRaven23

      Ah man. If I wasn’t heading back to Austin next month, I’d definitely scope a few up from you.

    • PhlyyPhree

      What time are your tickets for? I need 3 for that day. My mom and sis are coming in for homecoming festivities

    • Kenya Payton

      11?? Can I get two? Just sent an email

    • Nik White

      VSB/VSS love in action!

  • RagesAgainstMachines

    I’ve never been to DC. Each time I’ve had the chance, starting since I was a child, something always happened and I couldn’t go. The very first time was chicken pox and it’s always been something since then.

    But I think the universe wanted me to wait. It wanted me to wait until this museum was in existence with the full blackness on display. I’m going next year… the universe wants me to.

    • Asiyah

      I’ve never been either and now I want to go down there and check out this museum.

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