Seeing the Mountaintop, While Honoring the Climb

Though then it seemed more like a mountain, at our school, there prominently sat a large grassy hill, with dirt paths created by the repetitious pounding of Buster Brown shoes climbing up and running down it.  Heavily dispersed throughout the grass on the hill and its surrounding terrain were buttercups, and dandelions (bright yellow or in their bulbous, pollenated state) that we’d gather to give to fleeting crushes, favorite teachers and best friends; we’d blow on to send the cottony feathers into space with our wishes; or we’d tie the stems together to make flower-jewelry to adorn or tiny wrists and sit atop our plaits.  Nobody ever told us that our flowers were weeds.


We were special: a rainbow of kids at Hampton University’s Lab School—mainly hues of brown, with our own mountain to traverse and abundant meadow of flowers from which to pick.  And we — the children and the flowers –grew under the warmth of being seen in the light of boundless possibility.

We were fully expected to flourish as we were from the great people of Africa– the people who had invented math, music and built pyramids; from a land that was rich with diamonds, gold, salt and iron. We were expected to overcome life’s guaranteed obstacles because strength was in our DNA.  Our people survived tortuous 8-week voyages as cargo from Africa to the U.S. after we had been kidnapped from our countries and our families, brought without anything to a new land, and enslaved for 250 years.  We had survived the The Middle Passage, Jim Crow and the Tuskegee Experiment. Yet we were still expected to create like Jacob Lawrence, Alex Haley and Gordon Parks.  We were expected to invent like George Washington Carver, Madam C.J Walker and Benjamin Banneker.


In knowing our past and our truth, we solidly knew ourselves. I was a mere elementary school girl, but I was clear about who I was…and I was so proud; and I was incredibly excited by the same possibility of me that I saw in my teacher’s eyes. Hampton’s Lab school students’ feet were firmly planted on the ground, rooted in our history, so we could walk up, climb up and run down any metaphorical mountain that life planted in front of us.

The African American Museum of History and Culture can give same sense of pride and confidence to each child in America because it tells the full, accurate, unedited story of African Americans in the United States.


Now a Black child won’t think of herself as a descendent of slaves; but as a descendent of a people who were enslaved. Slavery was something that done TO us. It is NOT us. Now a Black person will know how much has been overcome, so when things seemed hopeless; they have the strength and feel encouraged to keep on keeping on. Now a Black child will not think of himself as alone when he sits in a classroom, office or boardroom — the only person of color, but a man continuing a long legacy of being the first, of breaking barriers and of withstanding isolation.


What a gift you give a person when they can say, I can do it. I know this because it has been done before.

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As these doors open, it is my hope that each and every person who visits this beautiful museum will walk away deeply inspired–filled with a greater respect for the dignity and worth of every human being and a stronger commitment to the ideals of justice, equality and a true democracy. -John Lewis


First, it shows our commitment to truth. A great nation does not hide its history. It faces its flaws and corrects them. This museum tells the truth that a country founded on the promise of liberty held millions in chains. That the price of our union was America’s original sin. -Former President George Bush, Jr.

Our country is better and more vibrant because of their contributions and the contributions of millions of African Americans. No telling of American history is neither complete nor accurate without acknowledging them. – Former President George Bush Jr.

And so this national museum helps to tell a richer and fuller story of who we are. It helps us better understand the lives, yes of the president, but also the slave, the industrialist but also the porter, the keeper of the status quo but also the optimist seeking to overthrow that status quo, the teacher, or the cook, alongside the statesman.

And by knowing this other story, we better understand ourselves and each other. It binds us together. It reaffirms that all of us are American, that African-American history is not somehow separate from our larger American story, it’s not the underside of the American story. – President Barack Obama



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About Randi B.

Randi is a diversity and inclusion strategist, speaker, trainer and writer, focusing on making connections and cultivating empathy in this diverse world one trip, speech, article, book and conversation at a time.

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