I used to consume history in high school like popsicles on a sunny day. I was intoxicated with learning what happened before my existence. My mind swelled with knowledge of how what became what and how who become who. I would go through trails in my head with the intent to get to the end of how I ended up here. In America. After years of slavery.
On a cold Thursday afternoon, I made my way to the new Mississippi Civil Rights Museum located in Downtown Jackson, Mississippi. As I walked through the doors, I was met by two police officers. The lady said “Take everything out your pockets. Step forward.” I did so. It was procedure, but I instantly felt a small sense of what would be ahead.
As I made my way to the beginning of the eight exhibit museum, I started here. Instantly taken aback by what I was reading. My eyes glazed over metal chains used as restraints, documents of laws and pictures of cotton, poverty, and politics. I was on an emotional roller coaster that hadn’t even reached its peak.
Before proceeding to certain simulations and presentations, the museum had warning signs of how graphic the pictures may be. As I stepped in certain spots, the intercom said “Hey! What are you doing here? You better get out of here if you don’t want any trouble.” It was in real voices. The same voices my ancestors heard day in and day out.
One went as far as the sound of a rifle being prepared for action. Although I was in a safe place, my mind started to imagine what it must have been like living in the times of slavery and post-slavery.
I imagined punishment for little or no reason, deep senses of fear in the bellies of every black person in those times, the rise of faith and doubt, the organization of movements and companies, the birth of children and the death of some. I imagined hymns being moaned when words couldn’t be mustered. Oh, I imagined a lot.
When I exited imagination, I reentered reality. I was grateful to have gained a small glimpse into my history. I was saddened by the lives lost to fight for the freedoms I have today. I was inspired to press on another day knowing my ancestors had endured far worse than I ever have.
Many of the wounds are still open today. History is living in the present. I still see injustice, poverty, slavery of the mind, depression and systematic oppression. But in the eye of my soul, there’s light, there’s hope, there’s freedom, there’s truth and there’s time. I walked out of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum with my curly head held high with a bandaid of strength over my ancestors wounds.