Black History 101 Mobile Museum showcases artifacts and guest speaker

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On Tuesday, Nov. 7, SVSU hosted the Black History 101 Mobile Museum, which featured disparate artifacts pertaining to black history.

Detroit native Khalid El-Hakim created the traveling museum, which was displayed in Curtiss Seminar Rooms D, E and F from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Roberto Garcia, the director of Multicultural Student Affairs, invited El-Hakim to speak. He met El-Hakim at The National Conference on Race and Ethnicity five to six years ago.

Garcia’s goal was to bring El-Hakim in before Black History Month in February.

“I grew up in a predominately black community,” Garcia said. “Black History Month was every day for us. … My goal as the director is to celebrate everyone’s cultures throughout the year.”

At 1 p.m., El-Hakim gave a lecture titled “The Truth Hurts: Black History, Honesty and Healing Racial Divide.” The lecture discussed the artifacts that he has collected. It also featured a conversation about learning and discussing black history in America honestly.

Throughout the day, his exhibit, themed after the year 1968, was available to the public.

It included several of his over 7,000 artifacts. Artifacts included racist advertisements, signed photographs and letters from Frederick Douglass, Will Smith and others, records, books, chains and more.

“I’ve been collecting for 27 years now,” El-Hakim said. “I probably spend, in a year, three and half months (traveling).”

El-Hakim started privately collecting artifacts because of his Ferris State professor, David Pilgrim. Ferris hosts the Jim Crow Museum, and during his lecture, El-Hakim spoke about how his professor taught students such as himself to view the artifacts they saw.

“(Pilgrim) didn’t create (the artifacts),” El-Hakim said. “We (the students) didn’t create them, but we had to deal with them.”

El-Hakim first began displaying his private collection in public spaces in 1995, after attending the Million Man March in Washington, D.C. Several black organizations began the march to show America a different view of the black man that wasn’t stereotypical. It also served to unite black men and to raise awareness about the struggles facing the black community.

“The reason I started doing it in public spaces is because the black men who attended the Million Man March decided to make a commitment to go back to our homes and make a positive change in our communities,” he said. “Prior to the Million Man March, this was just a private collection.”

El-Hakim hopes that his museum will help individuals deal with the realities of black history.

“The significance of collecting for me is that it provides the opportunity to use artifacts as a way to engage the public in conversation about race, about social justice and about the black experience in America,” he said.

El-Hakim aimed to have visitors feel more connected to the past.

“The main message is that it’s important to be engaged,” he said. “It’s important to have honest conversations about race. It’s important to research history and see ourselves in history.”

El-Hakim said that next year, his exhibit theme will be The Signature Series.

“The Signature Series (will have) artifacts that are signed by historical figures,” he said. “If you look closely at some of the artifacts that we have here, there’s some signed by Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Rosa Parks, Michael Jackson, Angela Davis, Will Smith. Just a variety of historical figures.”

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