Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Gwen Ifill PBS Interview with Lonnie Bunch director of Smithsonian African American History Museum

screen capture from youtube.com/PBS NewsHour

LISTEN NOW! In Washington D.C., there are a collection of Smithsonian Museums offering an array of different types of history that chronicle all walks of life. The most recent is the National Museum of African American History and Culture. As the Director of the Museum, Lonnie Bunch was recently interviewed by PBS, he talked about the tremendous undertaking it has been to make this vision a reality as well as how he has responded to the outcome. “It’s one of the most humbling and exciting moments of my entire life.”

Amidst the many responses that Bunch has received since the Museum has been opened, what has surprised him the most is the many American citizens that have expressed their gratitude for his efforts and labors. “There are times when I walk in an airport and people sort of just give me the ‘thumbs up’; or I walk down the street and church ladies will come to me and say they’re praying for me.”

As Bunch addresses, there is a significance and importance as to why the Museum’s location was chosen to be where it is in the National Mall. “It’s the acknowledgement that being on the National Mall, in some ways, says this story is important, is legitimate.” Bunch continues to express, “It was really important to be on the mall because, in some ways, one of the great joys of the Smithsonian, is people come to the Smithsonian and wrestle with issues and subjects that they won’t in their own home.” As Bunch points out, this is not just about the stories of African Americans. “This is not simply a story by black people, for black people. That in essence, this was the quintessential American Story.” He continues to express, “…if you want to understand who we are as Americans; our notions of resiliency and optimism; our sense of liberty…where better to look than this community?”

In the heightened climate in America’s present day, Bunch was asked about how the topic of race is being addressed through the Museum.  “I think there was a great concern that, ‘would this just be a museum by black people for black people’ and I think we had to counter that, both by the kind of stories that we told, by the way we tried to say, ‘This is a story of America, through an African American lens’”.

This is a beautiful reality that history is being told. Our history is not being slanted. It is additionally encouraging to hear Bunch describe the overwhelming participation that took place in order to make the museum a reality. Be sure to bring the whole family as you secure your tickets during your next trip to our nation’s capital and you visit the tremendous beauty of this historical museum. See the full interview with Director Bunch, and so much more. Also, shared in this segment: diversity, Black Lives Matter, artifacts, colleagues, Harriet Tubman, curators, Muhammad Ali, and legacies. Greg and John shared in this segment. 

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