By Kate Collins
This Tuesday, some may have noticed the Black History 101 Mobile Museum in the atrium of Schaffer Library. The exhibit this year was focused on the “3 M’s: Martin, Motown & Michael.” The exhibit was followed by presentations by museum curator Khalid el-Hakim and singer and songwriter Dee Dee McNeil.
Last year, the exhibit was featured in the Nott, yet this year Director of Multicultural Affairs Jason Benitez decided on a new location. When asked why, he answered, “The Nott, while a very beautiful building, was challenging last year to get people to come who maybe didn’t read the flyer or it wasn’t on their radar. Because we were inside, I had to go to the door and yell at people outside, sometimes, to come in.
“Here, we felt like there was going to be a lot more foot traffic just day-to-day because of where we are. And we felt that it was important to bring it here so that it could get a little more exposure,” he continued.
Last year, the exhibit was titled “Necessary” and was focused on the contributions and life of Malcolm X; so, most of the artifacts that were present last year were pertinent to him. This year, the exhibit was focused on the 3 M’s, which focused on Martin Luther King, Jr., Michael Jackson and Motown Records.
Despite the difference, Benitez stated that, “Both exhibitions have the same goal, which is to expose people to a chapter of history that you don’t really learn. But the focuses are a little bit different.”
Museum curator and founder Khalid el-Hakim has been collecting memorabilia and artifacts relating to African-American history for over 20 years, obtaining some very profound and thought-provoking material.
He spoke about the connection of the “3 M’s” to the exhibit, stating, “The connection happened in Detroit in 1963, prior to the March on Washington. Most of us have been taught that the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech was given first at the March on Washington in August of 1963, but most people don’t know that that speech was actually given first in Detroit in June of 1963 at Koppel Hall, and there’s an album that Motown Records recorded and put out during that time period that has that speech on there. So, that’s a little-known black history fact.”
He then went on to talk about the relationship between Michael Jackson and the exhibit. El-Hakim described how Jackson lived his life along the same lines of Martin Luther King, Jr. in his humanitarian records and his global impact in raising social and political commentary on environmental issues and feeding needy children, among other things. El-Hakim remarked that he wanted to formally bring both King and Jackson together with Motown to create this exhibit.
El-Hakim spoke of a non-blood-related “Aunt Dee Dee” who was friends with his mother, who had given him a coloring book when he was a kid.
He spoke about how important he found the book to be, and how it remained prominent in his life for many years, not knowing the context of the life of the woman who had given it to him.
Over the past 10 years, el-Hakim’s mother, knowing that he had started to work in the music industry, began giving him more information on his beloved Aunt which he had not previously been aware of.
He talked about a revolutionary group on the West Coast called the “Watts Prophets,” which, he came to find out that his Aunt Dee Dee had been a singer for. Around that time, he started to collect hip-hop memorabilia.
El-Hakim went on to introduce his illustrious “Aunt Dee Dee,” who proceeded to speak about her hardships of working as a singer/songwriter for Motown Records and beyond.
Having written songs for groups such as The Four Tops and later on Rita Marley, she struggled to get the credit that she well deserved in the industry. Having known many people in the music industry, she provided anecdotes to the audience about Michael Jackson and Bob Marley, etc.
The presentation and museum served as a proper conclusion to Black History Month and the events presented at Union, bringing together people and generations in a visual way to further educate our campus community.