Rolling the Past Forward

or more than 20 years, Detroiter Khalid el-Hakim, has collected artifacts and memorabilia representing all aspects of the Black experience. In order to share his collection with as many people as possible, he created the Black History 101 Mobile Museum, which will soon resume touring across the country.

Audience reaction to the items featured in the museum has been "overwhelming." "It's hard to walk through one of our exhibits without feeling deeply emotional," says el-Hakim, 41.  "It is very interesting to see how these artifacts resonate with people.  It's a new experience for me each time because of the different stories I hear as people respond to seeing the artifacts."

In 2012, the museum's tour will feature two exhibits, last year's "NECESSARY!"-a tribute to the life and legacy of Malcolm X, and the new "Drum Majors for Justice" highlighting contributions of African-American politicians.

Exhibits consist of over 150 artifacts, with additions all the time. A recent artifact acquired is an original, typed page from the 55-page interview author Alex Haley conducted with Malcolm X in the 1960s for Playboy magazine. 

"The page we acquired is signed by Malcolm X and it was this interview that set in motion what became the Autobiography of Malcolm X," says el-Hakim. Another poignant piece recently collected is the original photograph of the infamous 1930 lynching in Marion, Ind., the inspiration for Billie Holiday's haunting song "Strange Fruit."

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Along with artifacts, the museum has also had a variety of guest speakers go on the road with it, such as poet and activist jessica Care moore, Proof of rap group D12, The Last Poets, Fred Hampton Jr. and Sam Greenlee, author of "The Spook Who Sat by The Door," which was adapted into a film.

The most consistent guest lecturer has been Professor Griff of Public Enemy, el-Hakim says, who does a multi-media presentation on the history of the group and the impact of hip hop culture.

Soon, the museum will release a book to compliment this exhibit, featuring 101 quotations from Black leaders.  "We want to encourage young people to be inspired by the legacy of African-American politicians in hopes they become more civically engaged, especially in the upcoming election year," el-Hakim says. 

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