Khalid el-Hakim’s mobile art exhibit about African-American culture is for all seasons
Make no mistake, this just isn’t about February.
For the second consecutive year, Portland Community College welcomed the Black History 101 Mobile Museum to its campuses in lead up to Black History Month, nationally celebrated throughout the month of February.
During the last week of January, the exhibit showcased more than 150 artifacts of African-American memorabilia, including documents signed by Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass, Coretta Scott King, Muhammad Ali, a rare bill of sale from a slave auction, and a well-preserved set of slave-era shackles. The exhibit, which was open to the public and PCC students free of charge, traveled for all-day displays at Cascade, Sylvania, Rock Creek and Portland Metro Workforce Training Center.
The mobile museum was established by author and scholar Khalid el-Hakim, who is based in Detroit, Mich. El-Hakim said the project started in 1991 after taking a class from David Pilgrim at Ferris State University on Afrocentric art and multiculturism. It prompted him to explore offensive art relating to African-Americans that was common through the 20th century.
“That is what implored me to collect that material,” el-Hakim told the crowd at the Cascade Campus. “We look at history the way we look at a family album. When we look at them, we look for ourselves first. When I was in high school and opened a textbook, I didn’t see people like me and that was problematic. If they were there it was usually about slavery or civil rights. That was my experience.
“I decided to fill in the gap, and this what the Black History 101 Mobile Museum is all about,” he added.
For more than two decades, the museum has acquired thousands of original artifacts of African-American memorabilia that date from slavery to Hip Hop culture. The Black History 101 Mobile Museum travels to colleges, universities, K-12 schools, conferences, and cultural events across the country.
And it doesn’t travel or appear just for one month.
“We believe black history is seven days a week, 365 days a year,” said Luke Givens, Cascade Multicultural Center retention coordinator who was instrumental in bringing el-Hakim to PCC. “This is not just about February, but for all year round.”