I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel to Washington DC with a group of intelligent, passionate, and well rounded students for the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Social Justice trip. With social justice, empowerment, learning, and passion; I knew this trip was going to be an experience I would never forget. UMass Dartmouth SAIL posted on their Instagram about the Social Justice Trip and after reading about the trip, I signed up. 40 seats were available and I was beyond happy to have made the deadline!
About the Trip
As a group, we traveled to Washington DC by bus to visit significant places and landmarks that demonstrate African American history and culture. We visited the Frederick Douglass House, the NEW Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the African American Civil War Museum, and Howard University. Prior to the trip, I had never been to DC let alone any of this locations so I was thrilled to finally experience these places and learn the history deeply embedded in America's roots.
Frederick Douglass House
Frederick Douglass was a powerful leader in the anti-slavery movement, a public speaker, and the first African American to hold a high US government rank. We had the pleasure of visiting his home.
It was eye-opening to see each room preserved so delicately. Seeing the tools used to wash clothing, the fabrics and patterns, and the decorations gave insights on the daily life of Douglass. It was beautiful and haunting at the same time; to see where such a great and powerful man once spent his days and where he had passed, by the front door itself!
It was haunting to me to contrast how Douglass lived compared to other African Americans during his time.
National Museum of African American History and Culture
When I read that we were going to see the NEW National Museum of African American History and Culture, excitement came to mind. I have read reviews, seen videos, and watched interviews of people who toured the museum.
First of all, I believe ALL schools should bring their students on a trip to this museum. When learning about slavery as a child, it is difficult to truly comprehend the savagery and horror of what was the system.
Exploring the museum showed what words and textbooks cannot represent. You become a changed person when you see a child's cradle with slave chains on it. Your heart will wrench when you see the children's toys mocking African Americans. You will feel disgusted, revolted, and horrified with every step throughout the museum. You will feel helpless when you see Emmett Till in his casket. You will cry and weep and FEEL EMOTIONS, and that's perfect.
People need to understand African American history and culture. People must feel and see the pain and suffering of centuries. People who are judgmental, racist, and all around hateful NEED to walk through this museum. As Donald Trump takes his place into office (Dear God, how did this happen?), the American population as a whole should go through this museum and recognize the devastating history.
We, the people of this country, cannot make change without knowledge and there are far too many people who are uneducated in the history of African American culture. This museum is significant in so many ways and its ability to educate people of all races and backgrounds is astounding.
The African American Civil War Museum Monument
When you visualize war, what do you see? Death? Violence? The divide between men? Most don't picture the Civil War with this thought in mind; African Americans wanted to enlist in the war due to being equal with the white soldiers enlisted. Being in the same uniform and being treated equally as a solider was a leading step in the civil rights movement. Below are some photographs from the museum which demonstrate the strides African Americans made during the Civil War.
The African American Civil War Museum
When you walk among Howard University, the sense of school pride and empowerment cannot be denied. A beautiful school with a luscious and rich history, Howard University is a Historically Black University (HBCU). Meeting some members of the student body, the students were so intelligent, passionate, and full of grace and poise. Learning about the history of fraternities and sororities and the significance of the school was the icing on the trip.
Here are some other images I took on the trip!
Wrap Up & Final Thoughts
As someone who has always been open-minded, and judgement free, it horrifies me on how most non-liberal white people act and think. During this election season, we have seen the worst from people. I cannot believe the hate the BLM movement receives and the ignorance of most people regarding the movement. This trip has made me more empowered as a US citizen, as a friend, and as an ally. This trip has lit my fire and has influenced me in many positive ways.
As Donald Trump is sworn into office (Again...Dear God, WHY?!), we are going to need more passionate and informed people to fight and stick up for the lives of not only African Americans, but Muslims, Native Americans and Latinos (as well as women, too). Our country is divided and with this trip, I am more determined to be a safe space and a fighting ally for those who are mistreated.
American history is wrapped in our daily lives, yet most do not notice it. We ignore our history due to the shame and disgrace we feel.
(I hope this isn't too blunt...) but white people NEED to go to the historic locations and museums that I was so lucky to go to. Racism and hatred will continue occurring until education and acceptance is instilled. I was very disappointed with the lack of white people in the museum while we toured and there is no excuse! No matter your race, gender, age; Americans need to be truly educated about African American history. Public schools do not do enough!
Empower and educate yourself. Go to museums. Go to BLM rallies. Correct people when they are misinformed. Correct people when their "joke" isn't funny. Remember their names: Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice...the list (sadly) goes on. Don't stop fighting. Let your voice be heard.
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