As an African American, I'm very proud of the upcoming Smithsonian National Museum for African American History and Culture and all that it represents, but the groundbreaking event itself left a whole lot to be desired.
First of all, someone please explain to me why the President of the United States (and our country's first black president) was not included in the actual groundbreaking shovel ceremony?! This was a major oversight and one that I think was embarrassing for President Obama because he stood up when they called for the 'groundbreakers' but then sat back down when he realized that he was not included. Believe me, it was noticed. Politico already has this up on their homepage with the title, "No Shovel for Obama." I don't think I can ever recall witnessing a groundbreaking event where the President of the United States was in attendance but was not allowed to participate in the actual shovel ceremony. It seems to me that if the president was there, you would include him just out of a sense of protocol.
In the grand scheme of things, is this a major story? Probably not, but to many African Americans, having the first black president is a sense of pride and having him sit on the side and watch while the ground is broken on the first national African American museum is a farce! I think it would be interesting just to know what the thought process was behind the decision not to have the first black president participate in the shovel part of the ceremony for the first national museum dedicated to African American history; heck, he is African American history! This was a huge and very noticeable mistake that looks like a major snub of the president and someone should explain it.
And finally, who in the world told them to make the Negro National Anthem into an opera??? I've been singing that song for as long as I can remember and for the first time in my life, I couldn't even recognize it. This was just one flub too many... get with it, people!
UPDATE: White House officials said that only museum officials and advisers were scheduled to take part in the shoveling. Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas issued a statement saying shoveling was "intended for members of the Smithsonian family -- senior staff and members of the museum's council. Former first lady Laura Bush joined the groundbreaking as she is a member of the museum's advisory council."
For those who have not yet seen the video footage of the Smithsonian groundbreaking, here's a video. (NOTE: the shovel ceremony begins at approximately the 1:25:00 mark)
NOTE: Even Congressman John Lewis, a civil rights hero and the person who sponsored the legislation in Congress, was made to sit on the sidelines during the shovel ceremony. Sorry, but I still say the optics of it looked bad and showed an extreme lack of consideration and respect for the very history they are proclaiming to honor.
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