African American Museum in Philadelphia. New Orleans African American Museum. Northwest African American Museum. Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. National Museum of African American History and Culture. All are fine and important institutions that house fine art and relics that are of historical and traditional value to the black experience in America. But according to Michael B. Moore, that is not enough.
As CEO of the upcoming International African American Museum (IAAM) in Charleston, South Carolina, he feels we need to start back at one with the truth: the brutal and inhumane racketeering of thousands of enslaved Africans who ended up on the soil of South Carolina. Could this be the reason Charleston is such a great location for this tribute? “The IAAM differs from the NMAAHC because it’s not just a regional dedication and Gadsden’s Wharf is where many enslaved Africans took their first steps on American soil. The IAAM is more of an inclusive international narrative starting with the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. That is what makes this specific site so powerful,” he tells BE Modern Man.
Dr. Henry Louis Gates called South Carolina “the epicenter of the African American experience.” Once considered one of the richest cities in the America for hundreds of years—thanks to the slave and agricultural trade—Charleston is not the ‘ideal city.’ In addition to being a portal for the enslavement of Africans, you have the recent Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church shootings and controversy surrounding the Confederate flag, it may make some visitors leery. But beyond those negative feelings toward “The Palmetto State,” Moore has a deeper connection to the City of Charleston thanks to a famous relative who made a difference in our national history. Robert Smalls, a former slave who commandeered a Confederate ship and became a hero of the Civil War, convincing President Abraham Lincoln to allow free enslaved Africans to enlist in the Army, founded the South Carolina Republican Party and eventually served in the State Legislature during Reconstruction. Like Smalls, Moore recognizes how important this $75 million project is to his legacy. “More than 80% of African Americans, whether in Los Angeles, Seattle, or Washington, D.C., are able to trace their roots back to Charleston,” he states. “There is an enormous history and power that needs to be told. It will feel like a pilgrimage; like the Europeans feel about Ellis Island.
And with the aid of a comprehensive technological and interactive component, the goal of tracing one’s family tree, regardless of your current location, is possible and ties in with the overall theme of the museum: genealogy. The state-of-the-art facility will house several interior and exterior exhibits including a Center for Family History, Educational Resource Center, and high-speed interactive components. “We will embrace [technology] boldly and deeply! It will leverage the communication and deliver our content in a timely manner. Our website will be key to acquiring and engaging information, especially the genealogical component. It will contain an online curriculum for grades K-12 and a free smartphone application will be embedded into the art pieces and will push information to your phone to further engagement,” he states.
More, now than ever, it’s vital that we embrace and find a sense of self. The IAAM, slated to open Fall 2019, is a true tribute—a love letter to nurture and soothe—to many who still feel like three-fifths of a person. “At the broadest level, it is American history: a mosaic of different cultures and backgrounds. Think Benjamin Franklin, Denmark Vesey, Harriet Tubman, and Paul Revere. Museums are key vehicles that drive narratives of who we are. We have so much to be proud of as a people but unfortunately, our history has been muted and warped.”
He continues,” I am just trying to make a difference by creating something that will be valuable to African Americans broadly and to my country. I am still a work in progress and fortunate to have had a list of amazing jobs from CEO to working for food companies [Kraft and Coca-Cola] to marketing and advertising that have shaped my business life. I will make sure our history is available in an accessible way.”
And like our tagline states, “It is our normal to be extraordinary,” Moore is conscious of his inspirations as a thriving and productive man of color. “Besides my great-great grandfather Robert Smalls, I would have to say, my four sons [inspire me]. I think about the world they are going to grow up in and the challenges they will face. I look at [IAAM] as a calling to create a greater impact on a broader level. I grew up in Boston during the 1970s and the racial tension was extremely high. I just want to create the same inspiration that Smalls provided for me for younger African Americans; they need to know about their history.
Moore says being a BE Modern Man has aided in his outlook of the world. “Again society asks for certain things of men. We have to step up and do our own things in a certain manner. It is important to acknowledge the role patriarchal and sexism have played; we have hurt women by not allowing them to be powerful. The timing of the museum opening is significant as it commemorates 400 years of the first arrival of slaves  into the country.”
And with that, we wait patiently for the opening of the IAAM. The BE Modern Man team salutes Michael B. Moore in his effort to showcase and prove that #blackartmatters! We are excited to know that we have a BE Modern Man in Moore, who is leading the charge by passing the torch and inspiring a new generation of entrepreneurs, museumgoers, and dreamers. To learn more about the IAAM, visit https://iaamuseum.org.
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