Reggie Agyen-Boateng and Melissa Flores Jaimes, Contributors
Augsburg’s Pan Afrikan Student Union (PASU) took a trip to New York for spring break for six days. Students learned about black world history all around New York starting
from Harlem. On the first day, PASU visited the Schomburg Center for Research in
Black Culture and learned the resilience of Black Power throughout art and black history. The exhibit portrayed the Black Panther movement and how the movement took place not just in California but all over the world in multiple countries dealing with inequality.
We then went to a jazz club and heard the live music of the group Mingus Mondays at a standard jazz show. The next day we had a Harlem walking tour in which we learned of the importance of Harlem and how it shaped New York. We took a very interactive two-hour walk around Harlem as the tour guide made jokes and went in depth about how Martin Luther King brought people together. We also learned about King’s relationship with Malcolm X and how they lived in the same city and preached similar speeches but never met each other until they went to Washington, D.C.
Our trip to Harlem taught us a lot about how gentrification came into place as
lower Manhattan kept building new buildings for the wealthy and relocating black people into worse conditions. We then took a backstage tour of the famous Apollo Theater where famous icons like Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin and James Brown have performed.
After spending most of the afternoon in Harlem, PASU had the chance to explore New York City. Being a member of PASU encourages students to learn about their black culture, and this experience made most realize that America was built from the backs of African, Latinx, Caribbean and black slaves. One of the most astonishing places that we all felt was a great learning experience, as well as one of the most devastating to hear about, was the African Burial Ground. We found out that lower Manhattan had been a resting place for over 15,000 free and enslaved slaves from when they were infants until they could no longer be useful to work hard labor. Devastatingly, the city had been built on top of these resting grounds, but one day, the bodies were discovered. The government, however, still wanted to build on top of the bodies. People had to protest to keep the African Burial Grounds as a sacred place. Without visiting this national monument, we would have not known about the burial grounds, and we would not have been able to take in the black history that has been hidden for us and bring it back home to Minnesota. Overall, this spring break trip was an life-changing experience for us all. Black culture, which had been all but lost in the past, has returned and will stay with us for all time.
This article first appeared in the Friday, March 23, 2018, Edition of The Echo.