My Emotional Experience at the NMAAHC and Why You MUST Visit

I, too, sing America.

Disclaimer: I will not give you ALL the details of my visit, because I truly want any and everyone to go. It is my aim to give you an overall feeling about the museum so that you are so moved to visit at your earliest convenience. 

Some brief context. 

What's the NMAAHC?  

As taken directly from its home page...

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture. It was established by Act of Congress in 2003, following decades of efforts to promote and highlight the contributions of African Americans. To date, the Museum has collected more than 36,000 artifacts and nearly 100,000 individuals have become charter members. The Museum opened to the public on September 24, 2016, as the 19th and newest museum of the Smithsonian Institution.
— Source: https://nmaahc.si.edu
An image directly from the NMAAHC's website showing the map of the museum in its entirety. Source: https://nmaahc.si.edu/ 

An image directly from the NMAAHC's website showing the map of the museum in its entirety.

Source: https://nmaahc.si.edu/ 


Straight Outta DCA.

It was all a blur.  My entire week was a whirlwind of emotions that I simply was not prepared for.  As I previously mentioned, I suddenly had to fly home to New Jersey for a funeral. However, since I purchased my flight two days prior, Google flights suggested that I fly to DC instead for $184 round trip. I saved so much more money that even adding the cost of me renting a car with Turo, I was saving a significant amount of money. So, shoutout to Virgin America for allowing me to go home.  When I landed, a girl I went to high school with mentioned on Facebook that she had 6 passes for the museum for that day. Even though I wasn't in the best of moods (the rain surely didn't help), I knew this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I took it. I ran into the airport restroom to change so I could look mildly presentable and off to the Uber I went. 

I landed at 10:30, the pass was for 10:45, and I arrived at 11.  The weather was crappy but thankfully the rain wasn't truly pouring yet (although mildly annoying because I didn't have an umbrella but I always pack a scarf.  I waited in line for less than 10 minutes and was extremely worried that my pass wouldn't work with the scanner, but it did.  I am also certain that I received side eyes because I had my hot pink carry on luggage in tow, but I'm sure it was not the first time someone was #StraightOuttaDCA to the museum. Only me.

Me still looking mildly fuzzy from the airport but the quote resonated with me so I didn't care. ;-) This can be found on level 4.

Me still looking mildly fuzzy from the airport but the quote resonated with me so I didn't care. ;-) This can be found on level 4.

 

Sensory Overload & Mouth Dropping Experiences

Once I secured one of my bags into the lockers, I took a look around me and was in awe at the lobby alone.  It was immediately evident that everyone involved in the design / construction of the museum took extreme pride in their work.  The minor details added to the overall majesty of the museum.  Its location on the National Mall is equally impressive. 

I began my tour of the museum on the fourth floor and even now, my stomach is fluttering with how empowered I felt as soon as I stepped out of the elevator.  It finally hit me just exactly where I was and I felt like the museum was crafted specifically for me.  As shown on the first image, the  level of the museum dealt with culture.  Unapologetically black culture. Dances, sayings, gestures, music, television, film... just retyping it has me excited and ready to go back to visit.  The stories and artifacts spanned over decades, but it could touch anyone, even children.  I may not be the most versed on American wars but I do know who NeNe Leakes is (yep, she's in there) and of course President and Michelle Obama.  I went through so many memories and often found myself saying "yassss" to what I saw.  I also appreciated how interactive the museum was.  It wasn't a "see" only experience. I could touch, feel, and hear at certain points as well.

This building will sing for all of us.
— Lonnie G. Bunch, Founding Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture
I really hope this statement continues to be true.

I really hope this statement continues to be true.

 Our story was [finally] told with accuracy.

There was no glossing over sensitive issues that textbooks and news outlets fail to mention due to "tension".  You were going to get real raw accurate tellings of the African American story.  It was extremely eye opening, even for me, an Africana Studies minor.  I had moments when I was proud, embarrassed, angered, liberated, and moved by the resilience of my brothers and sisters. One of my fondest moments was when a group of high school students were filming their experience there, and stopped several people, including me, to have them declare "I'm black and I'm proud" on camera.  

The museum reminded me why I am honored to work in a black school in my community and why I try everyday to make at least one student feel empowered.  It reminded me (once again), that there are good people in the world and are genuinely supportive of the black culture, at a time when Election 2016 are showing so many true colors of others.  Witnessing the plight of our ancestors gave me fire to continue to live in my purpose and not take my luxuries and few privileges for granted.  I have a lot of choice compared to a woman in my position 100 years ago.  I felt infinitely blessed that I was able to seize the moment and come to the museum one week after it opened its doors.  

There was so much to take in, and due to my emotional state, I deliberately did not go to every collection available to us.  I wanted to have something new to look forward to upon my return to the NMAAHC.  I know in my heart though that I will never forget that day and ultimately feeling proud to be a part of this culture.  Simple moments of watching strangers join together to do the stepping exhibit and bond within 5 minutes lets me know that there is good in the world and that we needed this outlet.  If you needed to cry on a stranger's shoulder, I am almost positive that you would have been able to.  I choked up at collections that were hard for me but also at collections that were reminders that I am living in a time of greatness (i.e. Michelle Obama as MY First Lady). 

I stumbled upon a photo of my Sorors at the NMAAHC and also a picture of the Nupes at my alma mater, the University of Miami! Go Canes and Skee-Wee!

I stumbled upon a photo of my Sorors at the NMAAHC and also a picture of the Nupes at my alma mater, the University of Miami! Go Canes and Skee-Wee!


6 Tips for a Grand Experience at the NMAAHC

  • Get there EARLY. I managed to scoop an early pass and was extremely grateful.  As I was leaving in the 1:00pm realm, I noticed the line was substantially longer.  It's a much better experience when it is less crowded, trust me. 
  • Eat prior to arrival. The restaurant looks delicious, but the line will deter you.  If you insist on eating at the restaurant, see tip number 1.
  • Decide how you want to end up feeling. Do you want to start high and descend, or start off emotional and work your way up to feeling empowered? 
  • Do not go if you are pressed for time.  As I was already an emotional wreck and had to drive to New Jersey, I gave myself 2.5 hours but I could've easily been there for 4. Please also know, that it's virtually impossible to capture everything.  This is not a museum meant for a one-time visit.  
  • Understand that your emotions will be ALL over the place. If you are easily triggered, bring the necessary equipment (i.e. tissues).
  • Bring some money! My admittance into the museum was free but I made sure to buy a souvenir so that I could support.  I also plan on donating later in this calendar year.  
I picked up this bracelet in the NMAAHC souvenir store. There were different options for the words engraved but these spoke the most life to me. I continue to wear this bracelet DAILY as a reminder and to keep me in perspective of what I am here to do on this planet. 

I picked up this bracelet in the NMAAHC souvenir store. There were different options for the words engraved but these spoke the most life to me. I continue to wear this bracelet DAILY as a reminder and to keep me in perspective of what I am here to do on this planet. 


By now I'm certain that you have heard about the new National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington D.C..  I will not even hide my review of the museum, it was I C O N I C.  Whether you are African American or not, there is a lot to appreciate from this museum.  Read more on the blog to see my opinion on the in's and out's of the NMAAHC and tips so that you have a stellar experience once you visit. 

By now I'm certain that you have heard about the new National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington D.C..  I will not even hide my review of the museum, it was I C O N I C.  Whether you are African American or not, there is a lot to appreciate from this museum.  Read more on the blog to see my opinion on the in's and out's of the NMAAHC and tips so that you have a stellar experience once you visit. 

Folks, you must visit the NMAAHC  as soon as you can.  It is my mission to visit it whenever I visit DC because it is my hope that it continues to evolve.  I guarantee it will be an enjoyable experience for you, even during the rough moments.  The entire planning committee for the museum need to be commended for their phenomenal efforts in crafting this beauty for us.  I am insanely jealous of the residents of DC because they have yet another magnificent museum in their backyard.

Have you been able to visit yet? What was your favorite part about it? If you haven't been, shoutout a museum that you think I should visit. The city doesn't matter, as that'll be another excuse for me to hit the friendly skies!

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