Back in the fall of 2016—just a few months before President Barack Obama left office—The National Museum of African American History and Culture, a member of the Smithsonian Institution, opened in Washington D.C. Since the museum’s much-publicized opening, tickets have been available either via a long waiting list or a same-day lottery—its popularity has been nearly unprecedented, and not just among members of the African American community.
At a time in America when opinions tend towards the extreme and divisive, and millions are struggling with their identities as Americans and the implications the sordid history of this country has even today, it’s more important than ever that we all seek to inform and educate ourselves so that we can treat each other with empathy and understanding.
According to the museum, one of the four “pillars” of the institution is that “It helps all Americans see how their stories, their histories, and their cultures are shaped and informed by global influences.”
As members of the Latinx community, whether you identify as Afro Latinx or not, a visit to NMAAHC should be on your bucket list. Keep reading to find out exactly why you should make the trip.
As members of minority groups in America, now is an important time for Black and Brown people to stand together, and in order for us to do so effectively we need to try and understand each other’s histories and cultures as best as we can. Being informed and educated is the first step towards empathy and when you have empathy it’s much easier to dig in and tackle issues together.
It’s important to understand the Black experience.
If you identify as Afro-Latinx or even if you never have but are considered a person of color by yourself as well as by others, then you may have shared experiences with the African American community that are represented at NMAAHC. Whether you grew up in a Black community or a very Latin community, if your African roots are evident in your appearance, visiting the museum may give you some interesting insights into how you are perceived in America and how that has affected your experience and worldview.
We lived it too.
Much of my family came to the States from Puerto Rico in the early 1950s and lived through one of the darkest and scariest periods in America’s history. Like many Latin American and Caribbean immigrants, they were persecuted and treated unfairly. Although the racism they experienced didn’t necessarily mirror that of African Americans, there were certainly parallels, especially for Black-presenting Latinx people. The exhibitions and collections at NMAAHC can help give them—and us—a better understanding of that time and how those experiences continue to shape our lives today.
It’s also about today.
The museum features several exhibits that focus on modern American culture and the impact African Americans and people of color have had on it, as well as on issues of interest and/or concern for people of color living in America today. There’s even an exhibit on the influence of African American and African diaspora (this includes us!) culture, including everything from food and music to language and art.
It’s a good educational opportunity for kids.
A visit to NMAAHC would be interesting to all children in America, but if you have Afro-Latinx or multicultural children, it’s something to consider prioritizing. Though I myself now identify as Afro-Latinx and I even grew up in a predominantly African-American neighborhood, I personally don’t feel that I 100 percent relate to African American culture because my immediate family was so steeped in Puerto Rican culture. However, my children are a quarter Black and were blessed with loads of melanin. They will be viewed by others as Black for all of their lives, and as parents of Black or multicultural children it’s our duty to help our children understand that part of their culture as best as we can.
If we call for change, for representation, for things to call our own, we must support it when it happens. Change happens one step at a time and if we all pledge to give as much support as we are able when the needle actually moves, the people in power will have no choice but to continue to listen to our voices. It took decades after the Civil Rights Movement for this museum to actually open, but its incredible popularity shows that minorities in America are worth investing resources in.