Press "Enter" to skip to content

Ep.11 Khalid el-Hakim, Black History 101 Mobile Museum

Sometimes I get to drive people that are well-known for the work they do. So is this passenger, Khalid el-Hakim who runs theBlack History 101 Mobile Museum.

“These artifacts are evidence of bad things that have happened,” Khalid says. “But some artifacts are proof of our resiliency in the face of this ugliness.”

Khalid has been collecting the artifacts for the past twenty six years and is traveling across the country with his museum to make sure that the conversation on race is happening in America. After completing the ride I just caught up with him at one of his many exhibitions to have that conversation.

“I’ve picked up pieces that affirm who I am as a Black man in America. And coming out of the Hip Hop generation my lens for even doing this work is through being inspired and being awaken by Hip Hop, by messages that would come from groups like Public Enemy, Rakim, X Clan, Queen Latifah in this era of Black consciousness in Hip Hop. Whereas maybe twenty years ago my point of reference might have been just Malcolm X, just Martin Luther King, just Rosa Parks. To see a timeline of Black contributions, Black success, Black resiliency just broadened my scope as a human being really. I don’t think twenty years ago I could have made that statement.

“The museum is a collection of Black memorabilia that dates from the transatlantic slave trade in America up to Hip Hop culture – it’s about seven thousand artifacts. All these artifacts are original and I’ve actually taken on a mission of sharing these artifacts in public spaces.

“The emotional response have been varied. People come here and cry. Some people are offended by it which you should be offended by it, by some of the stereotypical images that are represented in the museum. I’ve had people come in and they smile and laugh when they see things that reminded them of their lived experience. You might have forty- or fifty-year-old person come in and see Sugarhill’s album cover and remember Rapper’s Delight or The Message from Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five. And then you see people just love to see artifacts, signed documents by Martin Luther King, Malcolm X.

“We use these as opportunities to have a conversations about race in America and what we need to do to move this nation forward. Like we have Black Lives Matter movement and to look at that movement in a framework of collection that take up the exhibits I do and to realize that Black lives in America have never mattered. So to know that to be a fact reinforces my commitment to continue the struggle and to continue to be committed to social justice when it comes to educating our youth on the importance of knowing our history. Your history what makes you who you are.

“We need to have the conversation. People are afraid to have that conversation. One other thing that this work allows me to do is kind of nudge and push people to have that conversation because you can’t be exposed to some of this material and not respond to it. If people are not willing to have truthful, honest conversations about race in America then we’ll never move forward. And we know what happens when conversation doesn’t happen. You know what I’m saying? When the conversation doesn’t happen the conflict becomes physical and violence happens; and violence happens because people have lack of communication, right?”

listen to Open Conversation episodes also every Tuesday on KJZZ 91.5, NPR member station in Phoenix, Arizona, a bit after 9:30 am PST.

music by Queen LatifahLoopstache

recorded, produced by Regina Revazova

note: this content is intended for listening. This transcript might not be accurate. We advise to listen to the podcast to get full range of emotional highlights and other story elements.