NAAMHC: A masterpiece long overdue


ST. PETERSBURG – The St. Pete branch president of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) Jacqueline Hubbard and CEO of World Power & Water Frank Wells traveled with 25 Tampa Bay residents to Washington, DC for the dedication ceremony of the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NAAMHC).

Organized by Elma McKay of Sarasota, residents from St. Petersburg, Tampa, Sarasota and Bradenton made the trip up by private railway car.

Although Hubbard’s trip centered solely on the opening of the new museum, Wells’ journey to our nation’s capital was initially unrelated to the museum ceremonies.

He explained that several months ago his pastor, Rev. Clarence Williams of Greater Mt. Zion AME, mentioned during service that he had been invited to deliver the opening prayer for a session of Congress in September. Wells put the date on his calendar without much afterthought.

He put in an application over the summer to attend a conference in Washington to talk about social issues plaguing communities across the country, and it was accepted. As president and CEO of Venture House of Pinellas County, Wells looked forward to learning about different programs around the country and sharing what his nonprofit is doing to address issues of joblessness, housing, education, homelessness, poverty and violence.

Just before Wells was about to prepare to leave, he checked his calendar.

“When I looked at the dates of the conference, they were the same dates as Pastor Williams’ trip to DC!”

When Wells, Hubbard and the rest of the Tampa Bay contingent arrived in Washington, they were met by private transport and taken to the Eldon Luxury Suites. Some of the people representing the Tampa Bay area included, Don and Doris Johnson, Jennifer Gamble, Herman and Wanda Gilbert, Frank and Elma McKay, Charles and Jacqueline Jones, Janet Morgan, Taren Harris, Michelle and Otis Jones and others.

Their group gathered in Rep. Kathy Castor’s office on the morning of Wednesday, Sept. 21 for a brief meeting with her and her staff then was escorted to the Office of the Chaplain of Congress.

The Big Day

“Our group received tickets to enter the museum on Saturday and Sunday afternoons,” said Hubbard, who remarked that transportation was provided on Saturday morning to the ceremony.

“What an amazing day, to hear everyone from Oprah and Will Smith, to Stevie Wonder, to Presidents Bush and Obama and even St. Pete native Angela Bassett, talking about this amazing new institution that has been talked about for over a century,” exclaimed Wells jubilantly.

“Exhibits include significant artifacts that reflect important moments in our history. The collection includes more than 34,000 artifacts, including Emmitt Till’s casket and Harriet Tubman’s shawl.” Hubbard concluded.

Now the world can see and hopefully appreciate the struggles, strides and successes that African Americans have contributed to the social fabric of America.

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