THE FUTURE IS NOW: Excerpts from the 2020 Opening Remarks by AAAM Board President, LaNesha DeBardelaben
Dear AAAM Members,
The future is now. What a pivot you have made in your personal lives, professional lives, and in your institutions. Because of you, AAAM is strong and operating at full momentum. In spite of the global pandemic we find ourselves facing, we are creating the future we wish to see.
As we look back, we have so much for which to be proud. AAAM has a mission that matters, representing a Black museums field that goes back to 1868 when the first Black museum in the United States was established at an HBCU, Hampton University.
We are an association that has matured from over 42 years of finding our way forward, to this moment of momentous pride. We have a great cloud of witnesses around us – Dr. Margaret Burroughs, Dr. Charles Howard Wright, John Kinard, Icabod Fluellen, Joan Maynard, Rowena Steward, Margaret Santiago, Bill Billingsley, and numerous others – a great cloud of witnesses who were the first to see and set the vision for this essential association. They call us to a higher place of practice.
These times of turbulence have been met with tenacity. Black theologian Otis Moss often says that we are living through two pandemics, COVID-19 and COVID-1619. The brutal force of tragedy that COVID-19 has brought compounded by the persistence of racialized terror and trauma that COVID-1619 has cast upon us have had us fighting for our lives, for Black lives that matter. Black museums have not wavered in seeing and serving the needs of communities. From taking your programs virtual to taking them outdoors, you have met the moment with innovation and a steadfast, unmovable commitment to your mission.
Like your institutions, AAAM, likewise, has pivoted. When we saw a need for collaboration and connection among Black museum leaders, we created the COVID-19 Regional Leadership Conversations, hosting a series of virtual conversations about fundraising, leadership, social justice activism, and programming during times of crisis. We thank all of the coordinators and gracious speakers who shared of their expertise with us during that series. Speakers were Anna Barber, Sharron Rose, Robert Bull, Juanita Moore, Beverly Robertson, Amina Dickerson, Althemese Barnes, Kathe Hambrick, Dr. John Fleming, Dr. Lawrence Pijeaux, Dr. Hassan Jeffries, Dr. Robert Smith, Dr. Melanie Adams, and Dr. Kaye Wise Whitehead, a powerhouse lineup of speakers who gave us wisdom for the road we trod. Likewise, our emerging young professionals led by Lance Wheeler and Jessica Kelly have created a robust calendar of lively and lovely activities that move the AAAM mission forward. We thank you Emerging Museum Professionals.
The future is now. And because of that, AAAM is focused on three areas: 1. sustainable growth of the Black museums field, 2. the strategic priorities of the association, and 3. supporting you, our membership.
The best is yet to come. As Earth, Wind, and Fire reminded us, keep your head to the sky. Keep doing what you do – keep educating and engaging. Keep collecting and preserving. Keep telling the stories of our ancestors, artists, and activists. Keep convening and collaborating. Keep pushing and pressing. Keep listening and leading. Keep your head to the sky because that is where the future is, and that is where hope is. We look forward to all that is ahead for the Black museums field, for AAAM, and for you.
LaNesha DeBardelaben | Board President | Association of African American Museums