On September 24, 2016, Ms. Ruth Bonner, 99 year-old daughter of a formerly enslaved man, rang the bell marking the official opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Some family members, President Obama and First Lady Obama assisted her.
Four generations of her family were present standing on the strong shoulders of her father, a man who
escaped to freedom, farmed the land and later became a physician. It was a glorious moment in American history.
I was fortunate to visit the museum before it was completely finished. It’s a rather brilliant combination of architecture, history, technology, culture, green living and the indomitable human spirit.
Yes, the museum chronicles the enslavement of Africans in America, civil rights, and our contributions to building this nation. But it also connects African American history with African history.
The building wears a crown modeled after a Yoruba artifact from west Africa. This statue is very complex. It reflects Yoruba culture but includes elements commonly associated with ancient Kemet (Egypt). The crown resembled a set of inverted, stacked pyramids and the hair was styled similar to some images of a young King Tut.
The statue revealed enduring commonalities and connections between people across the African continent. For me, there was a sense of continuity from African descendants in America to ancient Africa.
The museum makes a distinct statement. The African descendants who are integral to American history have a glorious and noteworthy past. Our contributions have uplifted humankind throughout recorded history.
Juxtapose this with the tension, anxiety, anger and distress I’ve felt over police brutality and dehumanization of Black people. We’ve witnessed yet another fatal shooting of a man who was simply trying to deal with a malfunctioning car. But on the video of the police activity, you hear him characterized as “big”, “bad”, and likely to require use of a Taser.
The man was a father. A God-loving person. A college student. A husband. I could go on…
The system that held Ms. Bonner’s father in bondage continues to threaten lives. Racism is real. Equal protection under the law seems to have become more of a lofty philosophy than a practice.
Many of my conversations over the last few weeks have been with people who are as stunned and horrified as I am. Thankfully, we are also mobilized and focused on building a better world. We all want to do what we can with what we have wherever we are.
As my bio indicates, I’m one of those brave souls who has what Marci Albright calls a “Slash Career”. Professor/Entrepreneur/Wellness Consultant/Speaker/Teacher. All of these combine into Personal Energy Strategist.
My singular goal no matter which hat I’m wearing is to help people sustain their power to cultivate their best self and share their good with the world.
We need the best in all of us.
The museum and the Bonner family story remind us that our best can change our lives and the world. The continued loss of life and injustice remind us that we need to protect the best in everyone.
This is a core benefit of practicing Maat, the philosophical foundation of Life In 4-Part Harmony. In Kemet, Maat was the key to harmonious living and social justice.
Everyday we can take action to build a life that sustains life. This week I invite you to take a moment and connect with how your work and actions change your life, community and world for the better.
Are you a yoga teacher who volunteers to teach meditation to children?
Are you an attorney who educates your community about legal procedures and protections?
Are you a professor who provides social justice education to cultivate a new generation of leaders?
Are you an investigative journalist who uncovers shining examples of courage and greatness?
Here are a few things that I’m doing. As a professor, I’m collaborating with a team of colleagues and students to produce a series of Black Lives Matter programs. As an entrepreneur, I’m spreading the practice of Maat. As a wellness educator, I’m teaching others how to manage stress and heal emotional trauma.
A better world happens because we make it so and work to sustain it. I believe in the power of you and me to create glorious moments in history.
© Sandra Y. Lewis