Saturday was a very historic day for America!
President Barack Obama said Saturday that the new Smithsonian museum devoted to African-American history is a testament to the greatness black Americans and a gateway for others to fully grasp blacks’ place in the nation’s history.
“It binds us together,” the president said during the long-awaited opening ceremony of the museum. “It reaffirms that all of us are America, that African-American history is not somehow separate from our larger American story, it is central to the American story.”
Thousands came from around the world. The presence of Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton reminded me of the role abolitionists played in our history.
Obama said “a great nation doesn’t shy away from the truth.”
“We’re not a burden on America or a stain on America or an object of shame and pity for America. We are America,” Obama said. “And that’s what this museum explains.
“Hopefully, this museum makes us talk to each other and listen to each other and see each other,” he said.
Obama also said the museum can provide context to the current national debate on the relationship between law enforcement and black communities that recently made headlines following the police shooting deaths of black men in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Charlotte, North Carolina.
“Perhaps it can help a white visitor understand the pain and anger of demonstrators in places like Ferguson and Charlotte. But it can also help black visitors appreciate the fact that not only is this younger generation carrying on traditions of the past, but within the white communities across the nation, we see the sincerity of law enforcement officers and officials who, in fits and starts, are struggling to understand and trying to do the right thing,” he said.
For me, the day was joyous, though I had a somewhat somber feeling as a heavy overcast loomed. Yet not a drop of rain came down. In my spirit, it felt as if all of those who had died by lynching and were killed brutally had come to join in the celebration. Like magic, all of the clouds disappeared, and by 4 p.m. we had a clear sky. Scripture says, God’s ways are not our ways!
My assignment was to work at the African American Civil War Memorial located at Vermont Avenue and U Street NW, a place of life-altering importance for me. Appointed by D.C. Council member Frank Smith to serve as the project director back when that monument was only a dream of his, I sat Saturday observing the drummers and dancers performing, suddenly overcome with the pains of 200 years of my ancestors. I could only think of how hard it had been for people of color here in America!
Smith and his museum staff had plans underway for a watch party on the big screen inside the Civil War Museum, withfree shuttle buses to and from the National Mall running hourly throughout the afternoon. He had historical plays, and across the street from the museum, he had African-American drummers and dancers, live musical entertainment and performers including the East of the River Steel Band, playing Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds”: “Don’t worry about a thing, cause every little thing’s gonna be all right!”
The opening of our new museum left me pondering, with all of the police shootings currently being captured on video, “Where do we go from here?”
But regardless of whatever comes next, it has been my pleasure to serve in a small way in my role as project director, as a part of this legacy of rich history being seen by the world, the preservation of African-American history.
Lyndia Grant is a radio talk show host on WYCB (1340 AM), Fridays at 6 p.m. Visit her website at www.lyndiagrant.com. Contact her at 202-558-2107 or email@example.com.