Pre-conference at Museum of African American History and Culture

(by our program chair, Kathy Winings)

The Annual Meeting allows each of us to engage the theme from multiple perspectives and to take time to reflect on the challenges of white normativity and how we are impacted by it. One of the best opportunities available to help that reflection process is the National Museum of African American History and Culture located on the beautiful Mall in the heart of Washington, DC. Since the museum’s opening on September 24, 2016, hundreds of thousands of people from around the world have visited this amazing museum. Three floors present the harsh history of African Americans from the very beginnings of the slave trade in Africa and the Caribbean up to the present discussion of whiteness and contemporary challenges of discrimination.

In addition, the other floors inspire visitors with a look at the rich contributions of African Americans in art and music, sports, film and television, culture, politics, government and religion. Throughout the museum, hundreds of inspiring stories are told through the lens of historical exhibits and digital technology. The whole experience touches each of our senses. Each visitor cannot help but be pulled in to the vast heart wrenching and beautifully inspiring history of the African American people. One does not have to be American to appreciate the stories presented in the museum. It is certainly well worth one’s time to take advantage of this great opportunity as a way to jump-start their conference experience.

When I visited the museum, I was not sure what to expect, other than the fact that it was part of the renowned Smithsonian and my students in Maryland thought it was awesome. When I was on my way back to campus on the Metro, my mind and my heart were still processing the experience. There were exhibits that moved me to tears and there were exhibits that awed me. More importantly, the museum experience helped take my reflection process to another level. The visuals, the content and everything else worked together to stimulate each of my senses, deepening my experience.

I really encourage participants to the conference to take the time to register for the pre-conference tour of the museum. The added benefit of being able to meet with the curator of the Religion section, Dr. Eric Williams, is an added opportunity. He travels extensively for the museum, speaking to a wide range of organizations and schools about this incredible addition to the Smithsonian. Sign up now for the excursion to reserve your ticket.

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