Lyman displays African American Artifacts
Adrianna Rochester – General Assignment Reporter
Images of America: African American Exhibit was structured to help teach unity, tolerance and diversity by exhibiting a collection of original African American artifacts from the era of slavery up until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, coordinator of multicultural affairs, Dian Brown-Albert said.
The Multicultural Center worked in collaboration with Jeffrey Fletcher who is the collector and owner of the memorabilia on display in the lobby of the Lyman Center for the Performing Arts, Brown- Albert said.
“Mr. Fletcher has a huge collection the artifacts, but the ones shown on display is just a small portion of his collection,” she said.
Brown-Albert said it has taken them a long time to make this exhibit happen because the date kept getting pushed back, but to see it all come to life now, she said, she’s glad it all worked out.
Each of the four display cases represents a different period, she said, starting with slavery, then the marketing of African Americans, the Tuskegee Airmen, and finally the Civil Rights Movement and Jim Crow.
The atmosphere was silent as viewers quietly absorbed each of the display’s elements. In the background, audio from Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech filled the room, as well as songs, such as “His Eye Is On the Sparrow,” and “Ain’t Gonna Let No Body Turn Me Around.”
Among the viewers was Christina Smith, who came to Lyman to buy tickets for the “Black Angels over Tuskegee” show that was held there later that week. After seeing the exhibit, Smith said that she felt moved.
“Clearly it’s a very graphic image of our history, but it portrays the brutality and it’s very touching to see,” Smith said.
Being able to observe the exhibit before coming to the Tuskegee play left her feeling compelled to come support events that are multicultural in their nature, she said. Also to encourage others to do the same.
Smith said, “I’ve taken cards to give to other people to come and see the exhibit so we all can be reminded of history and be informed to move forward and use this as a context of our history.”
Student diversity coordinator of the multicultural center, Jamelle Smith, said after viewing the entire exhibit, she was left in awe.
She pointed to the first case, a painting of a slave with whip slashes on their back, and said, “That took the cake for me and to see the realistic image of same man next to it made it ten times more real.”
She said she remembers when she was sick and used Vicks Vapor Rub on her back to help soothe herself the feeling was overbearing once the cooling sensation took effect. She said this picture automatically came to mind and she thought, “If my ancestors can go through this then I can endure this pain.”
Witnessing all of the items in the exhibit helps keep her grounded, she said and reassures her strength because even though at times she does not understand how these people survived such brutal times, knowing they did pushes her to not make any excuses to be strong during harsh times too.
Photo Credit: Adrianna Rochester