CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - With its official opening five days away, the International African American Museum co-hosted a multi-faith worship service Thursday night to celebrate the new facility.
The service began at 6 p.m. at Morris Brown AME Church, located at 13 Morris Street in downtown Charleston.
A few of the speakers included Dr. Tonya Matthews, the president and CEO of the museum; Bishop Samuel Green, and the Rev. DeMett Jenkins, the museum’s director of education and engagement for faith-based communities.
“This museum takes us into the minds and souls of black folks,” Green said. “So, this place is not to be viewed. It is to be consumed and swallowed, if you will.”
Green also weighed heavily on his faith, saying the museum is the Lord’s work, and a demonstration of strength and positivity coming out of hard times.
“Well done good and faithful servants,” Green said. “It is because of you and all of your descendants that God has promised you a crowned life.”
Rev. Howard-John Wesley from Virginia gave the main sermon. He emphasized the importance of storytelling to keep African culture alive.
Dr. Tonya Matthews touched on this as well. She encouraged people from all over to come to the museum to learn and continue sharing the history of African American culture.
“I have been a descendent all my life, but these days I step into the role of story keeper,” Matthews said. “Is there anybody out there that wants to step into the role of story keeper with me? I’m just checking.”
Thursday night’s service was one of several scheduled over the next few days leading up to the museum’s opening.
The museum is set to open to the public on Tuesday and tickets for the first day are already sold out. A vision of former Charleston Mayor Joe Riley and endorsed by U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, it is a facility that has been almost a quarter-century in the making.
Riley and Clyburn assembled a group that included members of the community and leaders in historic preservation and tourism, and academics.
The museum, which now stands at Gadsden’s Wharf, has a goal of honoring the untold stories of the African American journey at one of the nation’s most sacred sites. Gadsden’s Wharf is the place where an estimated 45% of enslaved Africans entered the country.
It features an African Ancestors Memorial Garden at its entrance. The garden is designed to reflect on the significance of the site.
The museum’s website promises “an unvarnished story of the international African American experience.”
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