A presentation Tuesday in Howell discussed the cultural legacy of racism in American history while providing tangible artifacts for the public to see that legacy for themselves.
Cleary University and the Livingston Diversity Council teamed up to sponsor the Black History 101 Mobile Museum at the Cleary University Student Commons Center. Dr. Khalid el-Hakim, the founder and curator of the traveling exhibit, also gave a 45-minute talk in which he discussed how artifacts like those in his museum reflect the various truths in our society, whether they be social, personal, forensic or healing truths.
Indoctrination through media was a key element of the discussion in which Dr. el-Hakim shared everything from gruesome postcards from the early 20th Century that showed actual lynchings to a clip from the popular Little Rascals movie shorts in which a rope is placed around the neck of a Black child and then yanked for humorous effect. It also included product ads featuring appalling racial stereotypes that spanned from the pre-Civil War era right into the 21st Century.
He said it all served to dehumanize Black people over the centuries and created an embedded layer of racism that remains to this day. However, he says the goal of the mobile museum is to provide a safe space to carry out a dialogue on these issues.
The artifacts in the exhibit date from the transatlantic slave trade to modern day. While it starts with items like a whip and shackles, the display spans the history of America and includes documents signed by Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Dubois, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. It also includes an extensive collection of hip-hop memorabilia, which Dr. el-Hakim explained had a connection to broader Black social, cultural, and political movements.
The museum came about after Dr. el-Hakim began collecting artifacts 30 years ago detailing the Black experience in the United States. He says his mission is rooted in providing a hands-on approach to sharing and learning about Black history. “It’s a whole different experience than seeing it in a textbook,” he said.