J-Term Travel Honors Black History Month

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On January 14, a busload of Taylor students seized the opportunity to step out of their comfort zone.

A one-day whirlwind visit to Wilberforce, Ohio allowed the group to explore the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center (NAAMCC), Wilberforce University and Central State University.

The trip, organized by the Office of Intercultural Leadership and Church Relations (ILCR) in coordination with the Office of Intercultural Programs (OIP), was an invitation for the Taylor community to engage and honor the Month of black history by participating in thought-provoking experiences. about past and present realities.

Although the trip was a first encounter for many of the band members, it was not a new experience for the man leading the tour. The Reverend Greg Dyson, vice president of the ILCR, lived near NAAMCC for several years and has organized hundreds of trips for high school and college students in the past.

“The inspiration for this trip was that as a black American who was young, but living during the life of Martin Luther King Jr., I was always amazed at how little I knew about the history of peoples black and brown,” Dyson said. “This museum is a substantial way to understand and visualize the position of many people who helped build the United States of America.”

After opening its doors to the public in 1988, the NAAMCC quickly established itself as one of the first national museums dedicated to the mission of chronicling the lived realities of the African-American nation – from their African roots to the present day. The NAAMCC provides visitors with educational and experiential encounters with Black history through carefully selected exhibits and programs that feature artwork, historical artifacts, manuscripts, and photography unique to the Black experience.

Taylor students had the opportunity to explore the exhibits individually, followed by discussions with the curator and an exhibit creator who helped to understand the significance of the museum’s content.

According to OIP student advisor Mike Miller, conversations with museum staff and tour members were a highlight of the trip.

“As the students explored the museum for the first time, it was amazing to see their faces light up and say, ‘Mike, did you know that?!'” Miller said.

For D’Nyla Harris’ second year, the most impactful moment of the trip turned out to be “Behind the Mask: Black Power in Comics,” an exhibit that explores the history of black comic book characters who historically were rarely presented as heroes. This exhibit, along with the artwork in the museum, changed Harris’ perspective on the conversations surrounding his own culture.

“I was blown away, because I didn’t grow up learning about running as a huge thing,” Harris said.

Sophomore Talique Taylor was also deeply touched by what he experienced at NAAMCC. For Taylor, the opportunity to appreciate the influence of black women in Ohio politics, public service, literature, arts, and science was incredibly important.

“I was also surprised by the depth of history at the small African-American history museum,” Taylor said. “It wasn’t a big museum, but the attention to detail and the artifacts kept there were quite impressive.”

After their time at the museum, the band continued their tour to Central State University and Wilberforce University a few miles away.

Founded in 1856, Wilberforce is the nation’s oldest historically black private university (HBU), named after famous abolitionist William Wilberforce. Once one of the destination points of the Underground Railroad, the university is rich in black history and holds deep significance for the black community. For many, the presence of the university represents a historic resilience and a step change in an era and a nation that refused to recognize freedom or education for black people.

Wilberforce also acts as the parent institution of Central State University, one of the nation’s oldest black-administered universities. The impact of these two institutions on Taylor’s students and faculty has been significant.

For Miller, the visits represented an opportunity to explore how other higher education institutions approach holistic learning. For Taylor, touring represented an encounter with history.

“I was deeply touched by the visit to Wilberforce,” Taylor said. “Witnessing the first HBCU in the United States was an experience I will never forget. I really felt the weight of history there.

Although interactions with each of these institutions were relatively brief, the effects of these encounters will be felt by members of the journey for a long time. According to Dyson, the impact of the tour is already visible.

“The change has already started,” he said. “We (don’t) guess the story, but we learn it. We don’t separate black history from “the other story”. Black history is part of American history. Plus, we get to know the black and brown heroes. History is not just sad stories of destruction and pain.

However, no trip is without flaws. Despite its overwhelmingly positive impact, probably the greatest weakness of the trip was the lack of diversity among the group members. Although the invitation was extended to all students, the majority of those who chose to participate are themselves members of the black community.

Events of this nature are enriched when people from different backgrounds, cultures and experiences choose to engage in a deeply nuanced conversation together. In other words, the trip is better when you are there.

The next time an invitation goes out, remember to say “yes”.

“Take advantage of the opportunities,” Miller said. “There is so much to see and so much to learn in the world and even around the corner. Create a better you by learning, struggling, and engaging in things not just outside of the “Taylor bubble,” but outside of your comfort zone. There are so many convenient ways to do this, and it can start with a simple step in the OIP. »


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