If Roots were an underfunded theme park, this would be it. I wanted to get away from consumerism and gluttony. So there I was, at the National Great Blacks In Wax Museum in Baltimore, having my own Black Friday.
The ticket agent was straight out of a John Waters movie. A light skinned black guy with a pencil thin mustache and a bulky bluetooth headset that looked 15 years old. His area was a mess of errant papers, receipts and pamphlets. I got my ticket.
At the beginning of the exhibit was the slave ship, composed of several rooms that were made to replicate an actual ship. It seemed like a place I could get some alone time. I walked straight in. The ship was as brutal--black children chained together, force fed slaves, revolting slaves. It was a palace of white guilt.
A large black family entered the slave ship with me. Most of them were watching their comments around me I could tell. One woman, when seeing a wax figure made to jump off the ship into awaiting sharks yelled, “oh yeah, feed me to the sharks!” If the subject matter wasn’t so macabre I would have laughed. A man in their group seemed angry he was dragged to the museum. He said “I don’t know why you all take me here. This (expletive) makes me so mad. I’m going to kill the next white person I see.” I was definitely the next white person he saw. He didn’t kill me.
I exited the slave ship and entered the area of great black accomplishment, wax figures of inventors, political figures, civil rights heroes, sports stars, artists and musicians. Many of the figures were done quite well. I loved the Mahalia Jackson figure in particular. So confident and elegant. It was exciting to see black families witness the history of black accomplishment, leading up to President Obama, whose figure had an entire room.
Leaving the museum the ticket agent with the thin mustache asked me if I had a good time. I said yes, but only because I think that was the answer he wanted. Then I sat in the lobby for a while, talked with an older black lady for 20 minutes, then whisked off to a bar a friend recommended that served a variety of local craft brews.