Photos: AAAM\YouTube Screenshots
Washington, D.C. — This Black History Month, the Association of African American Museums (AAAM) invites everyone to visit cultural destinations that are committed to preserving African and African American art, history and culture. There are African American-focused museums or cultural institutions in just about every state in the country. Touring the grounds and galleries, attending programs, delving into prominent aspects of history and uncovering lesser-known stories are enriching ways to celebrate Black culture. Visits to these institutions also serve as productive avenues to cope with the anguish that stems from racial and social injustice.
AAAM, a non-profit organization that supports African- and African American-focused museums, has more than 1,000 individual and institutional members in nearly all 50 states as well as Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Senegal and Ghana. Its members unite to celebrate African and African American heritage and culture while allowing Black people the opportunity to see themselves in art and learn about their history. When tragedy strikes, these same institutions become sacred ground for processing and grieving and serve as sources of strength people need to move forward.
“Each day, African Americans are forced to operate effectively amid cyclical trauma, such as the murder of George Floyd in 2020 and the countless acts of injustice and inequality that continue to plague the Black community,” said Vedet Coleman-Robinson, Ph.D., AAAM’s executive director. “The Association of African American Museums stands as a beacon of hope as our members offer care and comfort to the communities in which they serve through insightful programming, community service and more. We’ve been doing this community-focused work for over 40 years, and if you count our museums at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, this charge has been engrained in our work for over 150 years.”
As AAAM member institutions provide impactful service to their communities, they also serve as steadfast resources as access to Black history continues to face hurdles. Ongoing censorship, including book bans and efforts in several states to restrict teaching the topic in public schools, eliminates the opportunity for people to confront difficult stories that encourage critical thinking in today’s world. The debate over how to teach Black history is not new. AAAM and its member institutions, including museums as well as Black churches, counter this whitewashing of history by preserving and sharing an inclusive scope of African and African American history. Filling the voids left by banning books and critical race theory, collections and exhibitions bring to the forefront stories of civil rights and social injustice while chronicling both the strides that have been made and revealing inequalities that still exist today.
“The subject matters addressed in books that have been banned are also the focus of AAAM’s work. Our institutions are custodians of a rich heritage, safeguarding artifacts, stories and traditions that might otherwise be lost,” said Coleman-Robinson. “We’re seeing a wave of people across the country who are questioning if their history lessons have been watered down and they are coming to our institutions for the true story.”
While AAAM’s member institutions serve as venues for learning and places of respite, the Association’s individual members are encouraged to be advocates in their communities to eradicate social and racial injustice. In 2021, AAAM implored its members to contact their senators in support of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to address the use of deadly force and racial profiling. AAAM’s members continue to support efforts to change the social and racial landscape in the U.S.
“AAAM stands on the unmatched persistence, determination and bravery of the generations before us who fought for justice. Not only did they pave the way for us, but they left a legacy of strength that we are to use to continue to fight,” Coleman-Robinson said. “In the cases of George Floyd, Tyre Nichols and countless others, we are facing a fight against police brutality that spans centuries. Instead of an issue of color, we are confronting an issue of culture. Until the culture of police brutality ends, we will remain in a perpetual loop of dismay and despair about what happens to us when we encounter law enforcement. However, we are not helpless. We, members of AAAM, can be the catalysts for change. Our work is important and meaningful and has the ability to shift the culture.”
About the Association of African American Museums
Located in Washington, D.C., the Association of African American Museums (AAAM) is a non-profit member organization established to support African and African American-focused museums nationally and internationally and the professionals who protect, preserve and interpret African and African American art, history and culture.
Established as the single representative and principal voice of the African American museum movement, the Association seeks to strengthen and advocate for institutions and individuals’ interests committed to preserving African-derived cultures. AAAM’s services enhance those museums’ ability to serve the needs and interests of persons of African ancestry and those who wish to know more about the art, history and culture of African-derived cultures. For more information about the Association of African American Museums, visit www.blackmuseums.org.