#HRRlive: Communities Mobilized for Social Change

What a critical time to be a museum. In what ways do we regard these institutions as classrooms, as discourse, as truth? The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) took a giant leap in this arena––prior to even finalizing construction (set to open in 2016)––on Saturday, April 25th. A mix of museum professionals, students, activists, and just interested folk, gathered at the National Museum of the American Indian for a symposium to engage discussion and solutions around “Ferguson,” which has come to stand in for the prevalence of state-violence inflicted on black bodies that is not a new occurrence but hyper-visible due to technology and social media. “History, Rebellion and Reconciliation: Communities Mobilized for Social Change” symposium hosted by NMAAHC was a day of intellectual and artistic musing.

We were welcomed by a number of museum professionals to include NMAAHC Deputy Director Kinshasha Holman Conwill (@KinshahsaC) and NMAAHC founding Director Lonnie G. Bunch. Director Lonnie Bunch challenged the assumed role of the museum and the particular responsibility of the Smithsonian. Director Bunch reminded us that is necessary for the museum to give context to the present through the past.



Importance & Long-Range Hopes – Keynote: a one-to-one discussion with Lonnie Bunch and Rev. F. Willis Johnson, pastor of Wellsprings Church of Ferguson, Missouri


Panel 1 Ferguson: What Does this Moment Mean for America?

Moderator Juan Williams, Author and Journalist, Fox News Channel; with Lisa Crooms, Professor of Law, Howard University School of Law; Opal Tometi (@Opalayo), Writer and Co-founder, Black Lives Matter; Mychal Denzel Smith (@MychalSmith), Contibuting Writer, The Nation Magazine




On Art and History: A Conversation between Lonnie Bunch & Ava DuVernay

This conversation helped to transition into the ways in which artistic expression has the ability to mobilize culture and a movement. Filmmaker Ava DuVernay (@AVAETC) spoke to those trials and challenges through her experiences.

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Panel 2 Civil Rights 3.0: Ferguson & Faith in the 21st Century

Moderator Rex Ellis, Associate Director of Curatorial Affairs, NMAAHC; with Renee Harrison, Professor of Religious History, Howard University School of Divinity; Jeff Johnson (@Jeffsnation), Journalist, Motivational Speaker; Rev. Osagyefo Sekou (@RevSekou), Freeman Fellow, The Fellowship of Reconciliation; Stephanie Wolfe, Dissertation Fellow, John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics


Panel 3 #WordsMatter: Mobilization & Expressive culture

Moderators Jared Ball, Associate Professor of Communications, Morgan State University, Founder and Host, IMixWHATiLike!; and Mark Bolden, Asistant Professor of Counseling, Trinity College; with Sheila Pree Bright (@ShePreeBright), Photographer and Community Activist, Jamilah Lemieux (@JamilahLemieux), Senior Editor Digital, Ebony; Jef Tate, DJ, Founder of Dogon Society; Jasiri X (Jasiri_X), Emcee, Community Activist


The most beautiful and powerful aspect of this segment is they made it a priority to include actual performance and visual culture.

Recurring themes:

  •  This moment is part of a movement, which is continual. These incidences are part of a long history and a future endeavor towards greater justice.
  • Social media changes who gets to tell the story. Those engaged across media platforms are able to speak back.
  • Communities need to re-invest in themselves (#safetybeyondpolicing).
  • The youth are leading this movement and there needs to be dialogue, much culturally as inter-generationally.

I was inspired throughout the day for various reasons. Personally, I have been struggling with the concept of the Smithsonian as a national institution, and what that means for inclusion and diversity. However, NMAAHC showed that despite its title, it has plans to critically engage in the intersections of race, history, and politics that speaks directly to the community.

If I have any suggestion, it would only be to remind the museum to guide their audience’s online experience by providing the twitter handles of their speakers, and the intended hashtags for each panel. But that being said, a reported 12 million viewers participated across social media platforms, so I think they did well. We want to thank NMAAHC (@NMAAHC), again, for inviting us and supporting our work and that of others inspiring change.

You can view the recorded ustream here. Also, to continue the conversation join #MuseumsRespondtoFerguson, every 3rd Wednesday, on Twitter! And of course, follow every Blog Bite with #BGMB411

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