African-american Museum/Rasika – DC


Despite indications to the contrary, we easily entered the fantastic new (to us) National Museum of African American History and Culture on a Monday in June at 11:30 am. So glad. I had found getting passes via the museum ‘s website frustrating. At 6:30 am on the dot I tried to get same day online passes, with no luck. I tried again at 9:30 am and they were still unavailable so we walked over to the museum at 11:30 and a nice young greeter showed us how to get passes and we were in (even though walk-ins technically can’t get in until 1 pm.)

As warned, the museum is hard to do in a day. There is so much to see. We were there for 3.5 hours and saw maybe half. Our visit included lunch of fried chicken at the museum cafeteria-style restaurant. We did the history part first, which starts underground and rises up 2 more floors. It was packed with people, especially the early bits and apparently cramped and claustrophobic by design. I would have liked to spend more time in the 1950 ‘s exhibits and onward because that’s the history I like best, I think because I lived it and, as a result, it’s fascinating to see how it is chronicled and depicted.

There were several moving moments but what made me cry quietly was the procession we took past Emmet Till’s casket with the devastating photos of his grief-stricken, furious and brave mother. One of the most memorable sites from a drive around the Mississippi countryside with Dirck was the old storefront, now abandoned and covered with vines, on a country road where young Emmet got into trouble, allegedly, that led to his murder.

It was also very moving to see the history exhibit end with Obama’s inauguration, all the more so given the poisonous climate cultivated by his shockingly race-baiting successor in the White House. It will be interesting to see what the museum makes of the Trump Administration. Shame.

The fountain in the National Gallery Sculpture Park, after getting ice tea at the pavilion cafe

After lunch at the museum, we went to the culture exhibit on the top floor, which was my favorite area because I love “black” music, tv, movies, art and pop culture. I could have spent another hour there but my back was starting to ache.

I have been to civil rights museums/memorials/landmarks (in Memphis, Birmingham, Money, Mississippi) music museums highlighting black musicians (stax records and sun records in Memphis; Motown in Detroit; Jazz in Davenport Iowa and the Rock n roll hall of fame in Cleveland; the blues museum in clarksdale, Ms.) I’ve even been on the new plantation in NOLA that focuses entirely on slavery. So I have seen some of the artifacts and displays found at the new DC museum. But the difference is seeing it all together in one place, and what a place. The building is very striking inside and out, with fantastic art, artifacts, displays and city views. I also felt like a minority, which is an unusual experience and probably good to have. The place felt like it belonged to African-Americans and I am guessing (or hoping) they feel a real sense of belonging and pride there. I didn’t feel unwelcome but it’s not my place or my story.

Sisters in The Palisades

Last night, Noah and I had good innovative Indian food at Rasika West. I later discovered a Rasika nearer to our hotel, the conveniently located holiday inn Capital near the national air and space museum on the National Mall. The hotel also has a rooftop outdoor pool with a view of the US Capitol. Not Cayuga Lake but good place to cool off.

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