BY RISHON SEABRON
Salisbury University kicks off the series lecture in honor of African American History Month with keynote speaker and Salisbury native Deborah Tulani Salahu-Din on Thursday.
The event, sponsored by the African American History Month Planning Committee and Office of Multicultural Student Services, welcomed a range of students and Delmarva residents.
Museum Specialist Deborah Tulani Salahu-Din presented her lecture’s theme entitled “Race and Violence: The Historical Context for Black Lives Matter.” The depth of the historical relevance and connectivity of these topics were explained throughout the presentation.
The development of this year’s theme was created by the Association of African American History as it revolves around the topic “Crisis in Black Education.”
As an employee of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Salahu-Din explained the significance of the plethora of exhibits that include original artifacts representing various time periods and events of importance.
Past artifacts including Nat Turner’s bible, Emmett Till’s original casket and remnants of lynch ropes can be found in exhibits throughout the Smithsonian located on the National Mall in Washington D.C.
“This museum represents American history—this is American history from the African American experience,” Salahu-Din.
These displays are able to feature and preserve the heartbreaking yet inspiring history that is so deeply embedded within the African American culture. Her past experiences with working with other museums such as the Reginald F. Lewis Museum and Baltimore’s Great Blacks in Wax Museum provided her with additional knowledge.
Salahu-Din specifically focused on a few monumental elements that contributed to this particular history: violence and race.
“Violence is psychological, cultural, language—it is in the imagery,” Salahu-Din said.
The strong presence of the reoccurring pattern of institutionalized violence was explained on both a global and local scale. Salahu-Din was able to provide insight on Salisbury history.
Preserved artifacts that were found by a former Baltimore Sun investigative photographer during Salisbury’s 1931 Matthew Williams lynching can also be found on display in the Smithsonian.
These findings are able to tell a story and provide insight of the past that links to the future. This is particularly keen as the culture of today continues to be lived as well as analyzed.
Salahu-Din mentioned the relevance of volunteerism and the importance of being aware. One example mentioned was the Black Lives Matter movement and its progressive formation after the murder of Freddie Gray.
The behavior of systematic racial violence is important to the history and culture of today’s past and present. The Black Lives Matter movement shines light on these issues and brings attention to these injustices.
The Black Lives Matter movement allows diverse cultural backgrounds to understand how blacks have been marginalized.
“They recognize injustice and they’re standing up for what is right,” Salahu-Din said. “Until now, many Americans did not realize the prevalence of racial terrorism.”
These different aspects and themes are still building and adding on to American history as they continue to influence our culture. The usage of intellectual framework helps with portraying knowledge as well as accuracy throughout the several museums.
Assistant Professor of English Literature and Chairman of African American History Month Planning Committee April Logan explained the significance of this series.
“We try to plan events and programs that…will seem appealing and interesting to the broad public but also provide real depth around certain aspects of African American history,” Logan said.
The common goal of the committee is to allow research and knowledge within higher education to be more accessible to the public.
“Deborah is a perfect example because, on the one hand, everyone knows about the Smithsonian and it will attract people,” Logan said. “But when they come, they find this brilliant educator and scholar who can really distill this information in a way that’s accessible and meaningful.”
Salahu-Din concluded the lecture with encouraging words and additional insight on how activities of social justice can prevail.
“I encourage you to stay vigilant—as Booker T. Washington would say, “throw down your bucket where you are,” and always stand up for social justice,” Salahu-Din said.