Black History 101 Mobile Museum Visits East Lansing Public Library

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Wednesday, January 16, 2019, 9:59 am
Sarah Spohn

Photos courtesy of Phyllis Thode, ELPL.

Usually, libraries are fairly quiet places, but at a mobile museum to come to the East Lansing Public Library, conversation is encouraged.

The Black History 101 Mobile Museum, founded by Khalid el-Hakim is traveling to the East Lansing Public Library on Tuesday, January 22 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a lecture at 1 p.m.

The award-winning collection is made up of over 7,000 original artifacts of memorabilia ranging from the trans-Atlantic slave trade era to modern hip-hop culture. This year’s exhibit includes the Signature Series Collection, with over 150 original signatures from the 1800s to that of tennis star Serena Williams.

Phyllis Thode, Community Development and Volunteer Coordinator for East Lansing Public Library, is happy to have the mobile museum return to the library. The event follows MLK Day, and kicks off an early celebration of Black History Month events. According to Thode, last year’s event brought out nearly 500 people, who attended the lecture and/or visited the mobile museum.

“Khalid is a great speaker,” Thode said. “Some of it is very hard to see – in terms of the history of how African Americans have been treated through ads, through television, through pictures … he showed an ad for soap that supposedly took the black out of your skin…it’s very hard for anyone with a social conscience to admit that these kinds of things happened in America.”

“It definitely sparks conversation,” Thode said. “Khalid is very matter-of-fact. He doesn’t sensationalize anything – it’s just factual.”

Even after the mobile museum left for the next destination on the country-wide tour, Thode said the prior exhibit had a moving, positive impact on the students and adults who saw it. “Khalid tries to talk to as many groups as possible while touring, and then he has sheets where they can reflect – he wants them to have an interactive experience and also one they’ll take home with them, and talk about with their families.”

The museum founder also hopes the moving exhibits act as a space to talk about things – even controversial subjects. “It is our wish for the Black History 101 Mobile Museum to be a space in which the artifacts trigger conversations around topics that may be uncomfortable, but are very necessary for the social, political and spiritual growth of our nation at this critical point in time,” el-Hakim said. “It’s only through honest dialogue that we get to know each other's struggles and contributions. Once communication is established, there is an opportunity to work towards deeper understanding and respect for people in our diverse communities.”

ELPL hosts other programs that aim to get people talking about relevant topics.

“We want to be a community gathering place, where people can come here, and feel comfortable talking about these hard issues,” Thode said. “We have the social justice reading group, where each month a different topic of social justice is talked about. We want to be open to people coming here, and expressing their views in a constructive and nonviolent way.”

The mobile museum project is partially funded by grants from the East Lansing Arts Commission, Friends of the East Lansing Public Library, and the East Lansing High School Basketball Club.

At time of publication, registration for the museum is full from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with local elementary school visits, but spots remain open between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.

To register your group viewing of the mobile museum, contact Phyllis Thode at Individual walk-in spots for the lecture and museum are also available. © 2013-2020 East Lansing Info