On a recent trip to the Newseum, a museum to visualize the role of free press in major events in history, I had points of reflection as I was walking through the building full of the world’s archives. This museum is not just dedicated to U.S. History, but it houses moments from around the world.
The first exhibit you come to is a piece of the Berlin wall. History just surrounds this place. So it is not surprising that as I walked through this museum, for the third time, I experienced moments when I felt extremely grateful and also very emotional.
President Barack Obama
America’s First Black president.
Barack Hussein Obama II, born in Hawaii but in the early 80’s Chicago adopted him. Barack is one of us. He understood what it meant to be Black in America.
As I strolled through the museum and watched video clips of Barack in his early years to reading the headline where he announces the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden. It is a powerful feeling that I was able to witness something that no Black American felt was possible.
We didn’t. It won’t work. It is no way “this” America will vote a Black man into office.
But it did. It worked.
Still, to this day, I get emotional watching videos and listening to speeches from President Obama. A surreal feeling is what I get each time. From his remarks on Trayvon Martin’s killing to Barack singing Amazing Grace at the Charleston Church Funeral, it was like we had some one who understood the pain we have been going through for centuries.
The image that makes me instantly tear up is when I see him with Michelle and their daughters. The White House had a Black family as residents. They were not staff workers, journalist, campaigners, visitors or even part of housekeeping. They were the residents of this historical home.
Media and society portray the Black family more times than none as the lesser. Black family TV series are limited now. We went from having shows like Good Times, Family Matters, Sanford and Son, A Different World, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Amen, Hanging with Mr. Cooper to having just Black-ish and the spin off Grown-ish.
Watching the Obama’s was like watching an 8 year long Black family TV show. There were some challenges that Barack encountered. We got mad at him a few times, just like any other main character in a show. Michelle was the woman, wife and mother we all aspired to be. She held things together. Then watching two young Black women grow up before our eyes, just made the experience remarkable.
I saw a huge display of pictures from the 6th floor of the museum and I asked my partner, Julian, what it was. He responds, “That is the journalist memorial.” I was immediately intrigued.
Walking up to this two-story glass memorial I saw 2,323 names and photos of reporters, photographers, broadcasters and news executives from around the world dating back to 1837. My first thought was, these are our hidden heroes.
They lost their lives living in their passion and giving the world what we need the most…information in real time. They put themselves in the most dangerous situations so we could be abreast.
Iraq – 191 Lives
United States – 151 Lives
Russia – 82 Lives
Mexico – 66 Lives
Somalia – 54 Lives
Syria – 43 Lives
Afghanistan – 38 Lives
Some of these fallen heroes were covering what seemed like every day news when their lives were suddenly taken. Like reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward who were murdered on live TV while interviewing a chamber of commerce official near Roanoke, VA. Or Cem Emir, who was in Turkey covering the 2011 7.2 earthquake that hit the country. A second unexpected earthquake hit three weeks later collapsing the hotel he was residing in.
Hidden Heroes. To those 2,323 people listed on the memorial and to the thousands that are not. I thank you for your sacrifice, passion and news that you brought to the people of this world.
1968: Civil Rights at 50
This is a temporary exhibit that is available until January 4, 2019. and it explores events that shaped the civil rights movement in 1968.
Dr. King’s assassination
Poor People’s Campaign in Washington, DC
Protest at the Mexico City Olympics
These are just a few pivotal moments that were staples for the movement in 1968, but seem all too familiar in 2018.
Watching the Newseum produced film “Justice for All” it highlights John Carlos and Tommie Smith at the 1968 Olympics. After winning the Gold & Bronze medals, they took to the podium with no shoes, beads around their neck, heads lowered and wore black leather gloves with their fist high in the air. Everything they did on that televised platform had a meaning. They were standing for injustice.
2016 – Colin Kaepernick. Instead of the raised black-gloved fist, he took a knee. His movement started when he took a knee during the National Anthem to protest against racial injustice in America. The video Newseum created showed various similarities between Tommie, John & Colin. They used their athletic status to showcase their position and passion about the climate of America.
I thought to myself…50 years later, are we still in the same spot?
No matter how many times I visit a 9/11 memorial, I have the same feeling. I am grateful that I did not lose a loved one or my own life during this tragic terrorist attack. There are thousands of people who cannot say the same.
This year at my company’s national sales meeting, Jason, a Director in NYC, was one of our closing speakers. During his speech he touched on how his great city he has called home all of his life had endured one of the most tragic events in history and he lost one of his best friends.
Up until that point I had not personally known any one who was directly impacted 9/11. And now I am listening to one of my dearest partners fight though tears talking about his tragic lost.
I remember where I was on September 11, 2001. I was in the 11th grade in my second period class when our principle said over the intercom that a plane had just hit the Pentagon in D.C. and we would be bused home immediately to be with our families.
When I arrived home, my grandmother, grandfather, sick father and I huddled around the television together to watch what we thought was a hoax. This is a tragic but fond memory of mine because 10 days later my father passed away after being sick for years. Watching the news on 9/11 was our last family gathering we had.
Thinking about Jason’s lost and all of the other loved ones who were no longer with us brought many feelings to the surface. On that day, and even several to follow, race didn’t matter, class didn’t matter, religion didn’t even matter. Everyone who was in the vicinity of the twin towers, Pentagon and in the air on Flight 93, which crashed in Somerset County PA, all worked together. I couldn’t help to think, why does it take tragedy to unify?
Black Lives Matter
It was impossible for me not to leave this museum without thinking about the Black Lives Matter movement. Throughout the exhibits you see the evolution of this movement. The rise of the cell phone video takes place throughout exhibits. This core component of technology allowed us to uncover hard truths of our judicial systems.
Videos shown throughout the museum tell a story of how America is not so different in a post- Emmett Till, Brown v. Board of Education and Civil Rights Act of 1964 world.
This is why I march. This is why I protest.
Those are my thoughts as I was walking around this beautifully designed building. It took me back to July 7, 2016 when I, along with friends, protested at The White House. Alton Sterling was shot to death on July 5 and on July 6 Philando Castile was shot 7 times in his own car. Enough was enough. #NoJusticeNoPeace
We marched from The White House to the Capitol. We chanted. We shouted. We brought Congress out of session. It was pivotal moment for me to have Maxine Waters and John Lewis march side by side with us. For that moment I felt a sense of joy and accomplishment. But I knew the fight was not over.
I am grateful that I have the opportunity to protest for what I believe in. I am grateful that I have not been on the end of these, all too common, tragedies. But although I am not directly impacted by the killings of Black men and women, I am.
Times have changed, but they really haven’t.
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I appreciate all my readers.