Excursion to D.C. fosters connections

Students given opportunity to travel, learn more about their culture through sponsored trip

THE RENSSELAER UNION SPONSORED a trip for Black History Month to offer students opportunities to see the National Museum of African American History and Culture and various other D.C. sites, all while growing closer as a group.

As we stepped into the lobby of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, I was struck with awe by all of the attention to detail in every inch of the room. Looking around, it really felt like the museum was crafted especially for me to experience, and I realized just exactly where I was. Each point of the museum was fully interactive—I could hear and touch and feel the atmosphere change in each room, in addition to just being able to see the images and artifacts of my history. There was no glossing over the graphic details of the African American experience and everything about it was extremely eye-opening. I cycled through many emotions in that building, from anger to embarrassment, to pride in my heritage and all things that had to occur in order for me to end up where I am right now. I felt represented in every sense, especially when I gazed upon the leader of the Haitian rebellion, Toussaint L’Ouverture. I cannot remember a time when I felt closer to my ancestors, or moved by their resilience.

​ Saturday night, our group went to see Black Panther. I can’t even begin to describe how hyped I was to see a superhero movie with a talented black cast. It was more than a movie. It was a whole political statement without leaving anything out—from the precarious relationship between Africans and Black Americans today, to the idea of giving back to your community when you get the chance to make it out. It’s a fictional story that imagines a time and place where black people were untouched by white colonization and systems of institutionalized racism. It was refreshing to escape reality for a few hours and see people with the same skin color as you portrayed in a positive light, and not in the repetitive roles that black people are cast in—the criminals, the thugs, the villains, the slaves, or those struggling to be happy in this country during any part of our history or present. Many people were anticipating this movie and celebrated by dressing up in traditional African dress to express their pride, and many left feeling touched and inspired.

​ There are so many other great experiences in D.C. that I am so glad I got to have. We visited Adams Morgan, the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Memorial, saw statues of important American figures, and got to listen to D.C.’s famous Go-Go music. We took pictures with the portraits of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. We walked along the walls of memorials dedicated to veterans who fought for us. We grew closer as a group and got the chance to celebrate the birthdays of two of our freshmen by planning a surprise. This weekend helped me feel more connected to all aspects of humankind—my past and present, my ancestors and friends—I had the chance to delve deeper into what it means to be a Black American.