A window back in time

By Janette Neuwahl Tannen

A window back in time

By Janette Neuwahl Tannen
A mobile museum coming to UM this week will showcase relics of the African-American experience.

Shackles from the transatlantic slave trade. Antique photos of lynchings. Documents signed by Frederick Douglass, the escaped slave turned author and famed abolitionist leader. These are just a few of the artifacts that University of Miami students will be able to see Wednesday at the Black History 101 Mobile Museum.  

Inside the lobby of the University Center, students will be able to visit the museum from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday and to learn about its contents, brought by curator and University of Illinois Ph.D. candidate Khalid el-Hakim.

Collecting pieces that showcase black history has been el-Hakim’s passion for the past 27 years. That was when he took a college sociology course where his professor used Jim Crow era relics as a springboard to discuss the origins of racism and stereotypes in America.

“It was a powerful and transformative way of teaching, especially in contrast to many classes that simply attempt to transmit knowledge without engaging students on a deep level,” el-Hakim said.

A few years later, el-Hakim attended the Million Man March in Washington, D.C. where all of the men there took a pledge to make a positive change in their communities. He decided he would begin to showcase his collection in public spaces, and word began to spread. Today, the mobile museum has multiple engagements every week at schools, conferences and universities and has visited 34 of the U.S. states. El-Hakim hopes the exhibit will be able to help students make connections between the past and present.

“What we see happening currently in regards to race in particular is deeply rooted in history, and many of these artifacts help illuminate this,” he said. “We want students to see themselves in this historical timeline…and see themselves as agents of change.”

Shayla King, senior program coordinator in the Office of Academic Enhancement, along with her colleagues Chris Doell and Whitley Johnson, helped organize the museum’s visit to UM, which includes a new exhibit highlighting 1968, the year Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.

“With our current climate, it’s really essential to educate ourselves about the different cultures that make up the United States,” King said. “In order to know where we are going, we need to know where we’ve been, so this exhibit touches on that…and hopefully bringing this to campus will spark some conversation and inquiry.”

El-Hakim will also be speaking at a presentation that evening starting at 6 p.m. titled “The Truth Hurts: Black History, Honesty and Healing the Racial Divide,” in the School of Nursing’s Simulation Hospital Auditorium. The museum’s visit is being sponsored by UM’s Office of Academic Enhancement, along with the School of Education and Human Development, Division of Student Affairs, Housing and Residential Life, the Counseling Center, the LGBTQ Student Center and Toppel Career Center.