It’s been two years since the National Museum of African American History and Culture opened its doors on the Mall in the nation’s capital, and over two million people have visited thus far. They enter in search of a meaningful experience and interpretation of the story of not just how Black folks got through slavery but how they achieved in the aftermath. When Blacks realized there was no going back to Africa — from whence they came — the NMAAHC, and a few other museums across the country, portray how Black people poured blood, sweat, tears and gave their lives towards the mission of developing institutions of faith and education to help them integrate into an unwelcoming society.
It will be 154 years in 2019 since the inhumane institution of slavery in America was abolished. Yet, Blacks still very much find themselves trying to socially and professionally integrate into an unwelcoming society. Undoubtedly, significant strides have been made, but not enough to sit idly by and watch as those institutions, that served us then, close or face threats to their existence today.
That was the message that Howard University faculty and students delivered to members of the DC City Council over a bill passed on Tuesday establishing a hospital in southeast at St. Elizabeths. Howard was and remains the world’s top producer of Black medical doctors, dentists and pharmacists, along with undergraduates who later earn science and engineering doctoral degrees. If Howard students are shut out from training opportunities, while facing rumors of the closure of its own HU Hospital, which administration officials vehemently deny, it threatens the nation’s top source of Black medical professionals.
A visit to NMAAHC clearly shows the enormous barriers Blacks overcame to build their own institutions and to maintain them. But today, too many Black institutions, including colleges, churches, newspapers and businesses, along with young Black lives are dying on the vine. Lessons from the past are evidence of the fact that it doesn’t have to be this way. A short trip to the Mall this season will remind and hopefully encourage many to make saving Black institutions a priority in 2019.