Although Black History Month is over on the calendar, it truly extends throughout the year.African Americans are forging new and innovative ideas, concepts and trends everyday. This presents the question, what would America be without African Americans?
This powerful question was addressed in Tavis Smiley Presents: America I Am: The African American Imprint. America would not be America without African Americans. The music we love, the everyday items we use, the clothing, language, the records we have broken and even our ideals are due to the profound impact of African Americans.
Tavis Smiley, a famed activist, radio and television personality, created this exhibit with the intentions of developing a sense of pride and acknowledgement of African American’s. The goal of this traveling exhibit, which Smiley is presenting around the country, is to celebrate nearly 500 years of African-American contributions to the world.
The first glimpse into the tour is a homage to Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois who was the first to present the question, “Would America have been America without her Negro people?” Proceeding on, this eye opening exhibit takes you on a journey through African American culture from slavery until present day.
This was not your ordinary room of photos and artifacts; we also experienced history by walk through doors that our African ancestors walked through. For example, we walked through the “Doors of No Return” which were weathered wooden doors, on loan from the country of Ghana. These were the doors slaves passed through from a dungeon-like holding area to a ship where they were transported in shackles to the New World.
The exhibit does a great job at pointing out the many different gifts that black people have given to the world through aspects of culture, social-economic reforms, spirituality, the arts, education and science. Along with this, unlike most exhibits that just present artifacts, this one will uniquely tingle your senses. You can touch the precious artifacts of the past, listen to the Negro spirituals sung on the slave fields, and you can even watch scenes and performances of music greats like James Brown.
In particular, I enjoyed the movie presentation that showed a split screen image of Big Mama Thornton singing YouAin’t Nothing but a Hound Dog and showed Elvis Presley hijacking the song. I also enjoyed the section dedicated to black music that showcased Prince’s purple guitar from Purple Rain and Michael Jackson’s infamous red coat!
Overall, this exhibit is one of a kind and one that anyone of any age, religion, gender, social and economic status can enjoy. After this exhibit, I feel reconnected to the trailblazers of the past. African American culture is one of tragedy and triumph, yet always progressing.
We are bold, beautiful, brave, bountiful, big, bad and black! As I explored the maze of my history, I kept hearing James Brown echoing in my ears, “Say it loud, IM BLACK AND IM PROUD!”
Further attesting to the fact that black history is an ongoing expenditure, I am pleased to announce that the tour does not end until April 2010. For more information, please visit www.americaiam.org to find when it will be in a city near you!