Letters to the Museum

Schomburg Curator's Talk in New York City

Dr. Pilgrim at Schomburg Dear Dr. Pilgrim,

I have to tell you how much I enjoyed your Schomburg Curator's Talk earlier this evening. I've spent some time this evening navigating the web pages of your Jim Crow site and have bookmarked it for future research and study. We have a rich history, ripe with sorrow and affirmation. The pain that resonates from our experiences seems to me to be part of the fuel that has kept us going. It's ironic. It's how we master and subdue the pain, the anger the sharp pangs of hopelessness when it strikes.

I believe that objects are imbued with a force...an element, something retained from their use that is elemental, intangible but more than symbolic. I think of the objects I've witnessed that have been painful and that have wrought anger and tears in me -- a Klan robe, stained -- it makes me sick to this day to think what those stains are and where they came from. And there were the shackles built into the wall of a house, the scratches of writing in a cell on a sugar plantation, the mule-bank that when you dropped a coin in, rears back to kick the little black child in his head -- all sick images of what our society personifies. And I think, how can America be anything but in denial about its history. If everything from the salt and pepper shakers to the Aunt Jemima pancake mix 'tells' you how inferior I am, then how can 'they' reconcile/recognize or deal with this 'thing' that's at the core of who we are? We are made diminished, invisible and like the air we breathe, that we never think about because it's just there!

Dr. Pilgrim at Schomburg I wondered during your talk how you reconcile Dr. Joy Leary's views on Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome and often our own perpetuation of pain.

Also you recommended a book on race but I must have heard the name wrong. I Googled Gussow and Gussoff but got nowhere. I'd really appreciate it if you'd give me the correct author and name of the book. And on a final note, I don't know if you're familiar with Dr. Gerald Deas here in NYC but he has also amassed a chilling collection.

Again, thank you, THANK YOU! for your insights and I hope you'll have time to send me the book info.

Peace,

JV Harmon, NYC

-- August 8, 2007


BACK TO LETTERS