October 31, 2017
BE Modern Man: Meet ‘Mr. Black History 101’ Khalid el-Hakim
Name: Khalid el-Hakim
Profession: Founder, Black History 101 Mobile Museum
One Word That Describes You: Driven
What is your “Extraordinary Impact?”
The Black History 101 Mobile Museum is a collection of over 7,000 original artifacts of black memorabilia dating from the trans-Atlantic slave trade to hip hop culture. I have spent the past 26 years traveling the country collecting each piece. We have traveled to 29 states and over 300 institutions reaching tens of thousands of people, making it the most requested traveling exhibit of its kind in America. The feedback that I’ve received from around the country and the world has been amazing. I only look forward to it growing and preparing the next generation of curators to take over the work.
What does being one of the BEMM 100 Men of Distinction mean to you?
I am truly humbled to receive this unexpected recognition as one of Black Enterprise’s 100 Black Men of Distinction. This commendation means the work of the Black History 101 Mobile Museum has reached an important milestone, opening up the opportunity for the work to reach a larger audience. To be listed among esteemed black men who have made a sincere commitment to pursue their dreams and be outstanding examples of black excellence is a distinct honor and noteworthy accomplishment.
What are some examples of how you turned struggle into success?
Sometimes the initial struggle of pursuing a vision is side tracked by self-doubt, but the process of success undoubtedly comes with risks. I taught social studies in Detroit for 15 years as the work of the Black History 101 Mobile Museum was steadily growing and eventually I had to make the difficult choice to expand my vision by leaving the classroom to follow my dream full time. Making the decision to leave the stability of a bi-weekly paycheck and benefits was truly a leap of faith, but I knew I would have regretted not taking the opportunity at that time. I left the classroom in 2011 and haven’t looked back. Today I see the whole world as my classroom and wherever I set up an exhibit, class is indeed in session.
What is an important quality you look for in your relationships with others?
I look for qualities which complement and enhance not only my business but personal growth. Loyalty and dedication are also very important. I decided very early on that my commitment would be long term and would have to align with my divine purpose. The people who are on my team, I’ve been working with many of them for 20 plus years. They are just as divinely driven, committed to social justice and uplifting the community as I am.
What are some immediate projects you are working on?
My most recent project is an exhibit called ’68 that will be touring the U.S. in 2018 and features cultural material that reflects a 50-year history of civil rights, Black Power, arts, education, sports, politics, and entertainment. I am blessed to have Professor Griff of Public Enemy be an invaluable supporter and guest lecturer with the Black History 101 Mobile Museum going on 13 years and he will be speaking on select dates in 2018. I am also documenting this work in a film called ArtifaXual, which is part of my dissertation research as a Ph.D. student at the University of Illinois.
What is the best advice you ever received?
To always walk faithfully in your divine purpose. When you are confident in what your divine purpose is the universe will respond and submit to your requests. Tasks that at one time seemed confounding and difficult are attainable when you trust your spirit.
What is some advice you have for other men who want to make a difference?
Big ideas always start small. Sometimes we become so overwhelmed by the big picture that we give up before we even start. Whatever idea you have or contribution you want to make, start simple and grow step-by-step from there. Success takes time and to maintain success requires flexibility and innovation. What you start off doing may lead to other unexpected opportunities so be open and prepared for that as well.
How do you prep for an important business meeting and/or event?
I always make sure that I am well prepared and well rested. Well prepared means to leave no stone unturned.
As a busy Modern Man, how do you unwind on vacation? Share a story about your best vacation.
As a collector of artifacts, even when on vacation, I’m at work. I unwind by digging through antique shops, garage sales, record stores, used books stores, and thrift shops. That has always been my way of winding down; it’s therapeutic for me. So no matter where I travel, I’ll end up in one of those places and it doesn’t get better than that for me.
If you could travel and stay anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
At this point in my life, I’d love to travel to Mali, Senegal, and Ghana for the primary purpose of studying how the cultural artifacts of those countries are being preserved, archived, and used to share their history and culture.
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