from The Nehemiah Rules
Renaldo Nehemiah would make anyone’s short list of the best athletes on the planet during our life time. Renaldo was the top hurdler in the world for a decade, played in the NFL for the 49’ers, and won the TV “decathlon” show Superstars four times. Today he is still very active in the business side of our sport. AthleteBiz welcomes Renaldo as a guest blogger.
I recently visited the newly opened Smithsonian Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, DC. I’m fortunate that I only live about 15-20 minutes away. I don’t know how much African American history is still being taught in our schools today. But, I was excited to revisit what I had learned, eager to discover things I didn’t know and to be reminded of the things I’d forgotten. No matter how much you may or may not know, to see it and experience the magnificence of the museum in person, is in a word spellbinding. Truly a “must see”, enabling you to appreciate how far we’ve come as a country and yet, how much farther we must go. Illustrating the stories of our rich, beautiful and troubled America. There’s no way to see the entire museum in one day. It’s beautifully designed and located adjacent to the iconic Washington Monument. For the purpose of this blog, I can assure you that the most compelling and oftentimes gut wrenching experience for me took place within the three ground floors of the museum, as I journeyed from “Slavery to Freedom”. Friends that visited the museum before me, said to start on the ground floors first before ascending to the three upper floors, because it would set the tone for the entire visit. We were told it would take at least an hour to tour the ground floors…our actual time spent there was just shy of 3 hours. The exhibits illustrated and displayed the times of slavery and servitude. Even surpassing the estimated time allotment, I felt I could have stayed longer. There’s so much to absorb.
Seeing things I’d only heard about but never witnessed was absolutely remarkable.
It also strikingly shows how our country was at odds with itself. At odds with the basic core values of humanity and morality. It tells the story of courageous whites who stood shoulder to shoulder with African Americans against slavery and inequality. Those same brave individuals put their lives and families at risk for what they also believed to be injustices. The resolve of an oppressed people was inspiring. From being denied the right to learn how to read, to having the tenacity and audacity to learn from hearing the daily spoken word. It was eyeopening to learn that Blacks who were considered by slaveholders to be less then human were enlisted to fight on both sides of the battle during the Revolutionary war. The whites who fought seeking liberty from Great Britain and the blacks pursuing a deeper freedom, freedom from human bondage.
Another highlight for me was to observe the prominent role of the church. The church wasn’t just a place of worship and refuge. It was a place where many were educated and also served as a source of political activism. In 1879, the 13th Amendment stated that an individual couldn’t be denied the right to vote based on race, color or previous servitude. I immediately thought about our most recent Presidential election, where in certain parts of this same country, were reports of policies implemented that blatantly profiled the voter. In an effort to keep people of color and minorities from voting. How ironic that in the 21st century, in 2016, we are still experiencing concerted efforts to suppress the vote. Consistency establishes our reputation.
Out of bondage there were many strong and courageous people, far too many to count. And far too many not given credit for their great sacrifices, that we enjoy today.
Yet, all dared to dream, dared to hope and dared to believe.
“In every human Breast, God has implanted a Principle, which we call Love of Freedom; it is impatient of Oppression, and pants for Deliverance.” Phillis Wheatley 1774′. As they planted their seeds of hope, faith and belief. And through years of struggle, we’ve witnessed the fruits of those beliefs in the election of this country’s 1st African American President, the 44th President, Barrack Obama in 2008. A two-term Presidency of class, integrity and honor. Making not just African Americans proud, but All Americans.
“One day when the glory comes, it will be ours,” lyrics from R&B singer, John Legend. As a lesson for all of us, that we can all shine in the midst of the dark times. The African American Museum is a true tribute and revelation of the glorious multilayered history of African American people. If you haven’t had an opportunity to visit the African American Museum, please put it on your list of places to visit or trips to take this year. Everyone should experience this history, America’s history.