Story as an Act of Resistance / by Donna Olivia Owusu-Ansah

For Big Girl’s Spring Break we took a short road trip to Washington, DC. We visited the National Zoo and my Alma Mater Howard University. One week ago today, among a host of other places, we visited the Smithsonian National African American Museum of History and Culture. I am still reeling from the experience. Mere words cannot describe the space, the feeling, the pain, and the joy. It was absolutely incredible. 

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As an artist, the fourth floor was most appealing to me; The creative power filled the space and ran through my body like electricity.

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And I was particularly sparked by the words of bell hooks on the curved 1/4 wall in the center of the main room on the fourth floor:

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I believe in the power of story.  

As an artist, I tell stories.  

As a writer, I tell stories.  

As a preacher, I try my best to faithfully communicate what I believe to be the greatest story ever told and the beautiful way that story intersects with my story.

As a chaplain, I hear and collect the stories that are important for people to tell before they breathe their last breath—stories that help people make meaning in their lives.

So, I do believe that telling one’s story—collective and individual—is an act of resistance. 

Just look at Hip-Hop music. An art form that emerged as a way for young, Black folk in NYC to audaciously tell the stories of their lives over dope beats.

Listen up, I got a story to tell...
— Notorious B.I.G

Simply put, by telling our stories, in whatever medium we choose to tell them, we place ourselves in a particular place and time. We proclaim our “here-ness” and the fact that our lives matter. 

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In fact, that is why NMAAHC is so powerful. It is seven stories of telling the story of Africans in America who became African Americans—through history, artifacts, education, music, art, athletics, fashion, poetry, prose and more. The building itself tells the story, the story of a resilient and beautiful people, who survived the watery grave of the middle passage. The building and everything in it declares that, just over 400 years later, we are still here and we matter, despite every evil force—especially systemic racism and patriarchy—that tried and continues to try to annihilate our bodies and break our spirits.  

Hear the words of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on the power of story telling and the danger of a single story