History that began decades back is manifesting on the Mall. The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture sets to open doors.
The auspicious dedication day is being rung in with the 400 pound “beloved” bell removed from Williamsburg’s First Baptist Church for the first time in 60 years of being hung. Free and enslaved blacks organized First Baptist Church in 1776 for African Americans. 110 years later, First Baptist Church bought their bell.
Security will be tight. Museums on the Mall will be closed. 20,000 people are expected for 7,000 seats. 20,000 is far less a number than those Pope Francis gathered to the Mall. Parking nearby is a no go. Guests are encouraged to walk or Metro. It will be a no fly zone. Nothing said, formally, of drones, yes or not.
National Park Service’s official word is, “attendance will be high.” National Park Service is working with the Secret Service.
First Ladies Michelle Obama & Laura Bush will be present along with their husbands, Barack & George. Members of Congress will be present. Supreme Court Justices will be present. SCOTI’s, for security purpose, are driven in individual cars to events they all attend.
Included in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture 37,000 pieces are in the collection are objects of DC history. Locals donated family heirlooms, items linking back to the days of Booker T. Washington and the 1921 Tulsa race riot. Chairs from the 1838 founded Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church congregation are in the collection. Republican African American journalist Ida B. Wells attended the AME as did Booker T. The Free African Society, established after the Revolutionary War of 1787, evolved in to the AME. Churches were hives for conversations of freedom.
Benjamin Banneker’s Almanac is in the collection. Banneker, in 1791, surveyed the land that would become DC. Banneker was self taught. Banneker’s Almanac was given to Thomas Jefferson, then Secretary of State. Banneker and Jefferson had a pen pal thing going on.
A piece of Aquia Creek Sandstone is another of DC’s objects. The White House was built both by the Irish known for their artistry and slaves. The mined stone came from a local quarry.
The Museum of African American History and Culture is not designed by an American architect. The Museum is designed by a Dane, Bjarke Ingels. Ingels complained about the regulatory oversight of the strip of green amidst the Smithsonian, the Mall. Decisions of what to allow here do not come quickly. Decisions are made with deliberation, even where to place the guard’s booth.
Seven years ago, a contest was held from which the designer of NMAAHC, the National Museum Of African American History and Culture was selected. The firm of Freelon Adjaye Bond/Smith Group was chosen, from 22 applicants down to 6, down to one. The groups architects, led by the London based Adjaye. Others of the group are from North Carolina and New York, respectively, designed what looks like the start of an upside down pyramid. Lead architect Adjaye corrected critics. The National Planning Commission and the Commission of Fine Arts had final deciding oversight of the proposed museum. The DC Historic Preservation Office contributed their say, too.
In 2009, the world had their first peek of Adjaye’s concept. The design, Adjaye said is a Corona found in Nigerian Yoruba art.
Lonnie Bunch III says expectations are high for the museum Bunch was reluctant to lead. Seduced from Chicago 11 years ago to lead the Museum, 2 years before the first African American president sat as a US Senator, Bunch was on board.
The idea of an African American museum was first brought up by African American Civil War veterans in 1915. Congress authorized the museum in 1929. Congressman John Lewis championed the old cause, again, in 1988, each year, until 2003, bringing up the legislation.
2003, President George Bush, “Junior”, signed the Bill in to law.
Eleven years ago, Lonnie had to raise $250 million dollars, required by the Federal legislation. Bunch thinks back to the people in his life who doubted Bunch’s ability.
All Mr. Bunch has to do, Saturday, is listen to the Freedom Bell, a moment in history brought that crossed the racial divide.
LET FREEDOM RING