In a quiet neighborhood of southeastern Lansing lies a hidden gem where one would not normally expect to find a museum. This is the All Around the African World Museum, and it is dedicated to the promotion of Africa’s many contributions to world cultures through the African Diaspora–the global spread of Africans to distant shores from the mother continent. While all peoples have migrated throughout the world, this museum is unique in that it highlights the dispersal of African rooted culture in surprising ways that border on the counterintuitive.
Organization of the museum
The museum is arranged thematically room by room by continent, tracing the broad contributions of Africans across space and time. In Europe, for example, there are photographs of European royalty whose bloodlines can actually be traced to African roots. Some hereditary monarchies had several crossings with African mates during the long diaspora, and this is recounted here. In a subsection on Russia, one is astonished to learn that Alexandr Pushkin, the acknowledged father of all modern Russian literature–whether prose or poetry–was actually of African descent! Pushkin lost his life in a senseless duel, but left behind a great corpus of work that later influenced such Russian titans as Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky (ironically one of his short stories, “The Shot”, related to duelling). The continents melt into one another in each room and also out in the hall. In the North American room, there are extensive exhibits and photos of leading African-American athletes, including boxing greats Muhammed Ali and Joe Louis. Such luminaries as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X are obviously included, reflecting the important roles they played in the domestic civil rights movement. The guide who personally conducts the tour is the curator Dr. Kweiku, also known as Willie Davis Jr., PhD. who also teaches at Michigan State University and at Lansing Community College. With little prompting, he will play a horn found in the ground floor hall! Dr. Kweiku is a man with a mission. His mission is to raise funds as well as awareness of the cultural contributions of Africans through the global diaspora. One of his goals is to embed a stone map of Africa into the front lawn of the museum, which really looks like most of the houses in this neighborhood.
A unique contribution
Clearly, this museum fills a knowledge gap in the coverage of this important topic. It is obviously more comprehensive than the Malcolm X historic site marker (see the author’s article at ventwing.com) and is probably the only thorough examination of its subject available in mid-Michigan. With additional funding, it could even expand its collection and already impressive educational efforts into new initiatives.