WASHINGTON D.C.—If you visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C., you will find footprints of Jamaicans that have had a great impact on American society. Though many Jamaicans enjoy dual citizenship and become Jamericans, their far flung influence along with the majority who remain on the Island combine to contribute to humanity worldwide, which makes it an esteemed honor to be included in this museum.
The uniquely designed six-story bronze colored building, made of glass and steel, designed by Tanzanian David Adjaye sits directly across from the Lincoln Memorial and holds some of our finest historical achievements, from slavery, to culture, sports, politics, and civil rights. In these areas, we as Jamaicans have strongly influenced African American history.
Taking us back over six hundred years from the 1400s to present, most of our people of different generations have seen our history and culture conveniently distorted or omitted from our schoolbooks.
Our island, small as it is, which was once ruled by an oppressive British system, has triumphed above a system that has tried to keep us down. Installed either by electronic, text or artifact, our accomplishments have been placed among America’s greatest black achievers and are justified by their presence in an American museum.
Beginning on the lower level (C3), the 1400-1877 timeline displayed an exhibit called Slavery and Freedom. Here, you can find the transatlantic slave trade how our existence began in the new world as slaves. Remembering our freedom fighters that fought in various parts of the Caribbean, the maroons, the narrative of the exhibition documents their journey and contributions. One level up (C2), displays the defining era of segregation, between 1876-1968. There, you will see the likes of philosopher and visionary Marcus Garvey along with actor, singer and civil rights activist icon Harry Belafonte, who were honored electronically on a big screen in which they expressed their concern for humanity. Colin Powell was also pictured as a representative of America’s political system.
On the upper level (L4), the cultural galleries show an electronic image of Bob Marley on screen as he plays his vintage reggae hit, “Redemption.” The portrayal of Usain Bolt flashing his ‘signature salute to the world’ is also a must-see on this floor. The museum showcases album covers of notarized reggae artists such as Bob Marley and the Wailers’ Rastaman Vibration, Peter Tosh’s Equal Rights, Bunny Wailer’s Liberation and Jimmy Cliffs’ The Harder They Come.
On the same floor you will find a written piece about “Jamaica’s Hair and Politics,” which helped explain the popularization of Rastafarian culture in the 1970s. You will actually see the hat (tam) worn by Rastafarians to cover their locks.
A level below (L4) is a photo of Patrick Ewing, one of Jamaica’s basketball superstars who played in the first US Olympic professional basketball team in 1992.
He was accompanied by his teammates: Michael Jordan, Ervin “Magic” Johnson, Charles Barkley and the “mailman,” Karl Malone.
Visiting the museum can and will inspire us as Jamaican to enhance our history of achievements in American society.