Museum shares Black history with ULV students

African American Museum of Beginnings owner Khalif Rasshan mimics an antique tribal mask from Africa as he explains their purpose to help distinguish tribal identity. These masks are also called “totems” and serve as ways to express kinship among relations. / photo by Vincent Matthew Franco
African American Museum of Beginnings owner Khalif Rasshan mimics an antique tribal mask from Africa as he explains their purpose to help distinguish tribal identity. These masks are also called “totems” and serve as ways to express kinship among relations. / photo by Vincent Matthew Franco

Vincent Matthew Franco
Social Media Editor 

The Office of Civic and Community Engagement, the Black Student Union and the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion held a small day trip to the African American Museum of Beginnings in Pomona on Friday afternoon.

A small field trip consisting of history lessons debunking high school social studies classes, a tour through the museum and free Subway sandwiches for lunch. 

The trip began outside the Campus Center, where five students waited for Daniel Loera, the director of multicultural affairs, to pick them up in a van. Among the other University of La Verne faculty were Myrna Hugo, program coordinator for the office of civic engagement, and Zandra Wagoner, University chaplain.  

It was a short 20-minute drive to the museum, and once inside the Pomona Mall, where the museum is found, lunch was served. During this time, participants had the opportunity to mingle with owners, Khalif and Vikki Rasshan, both alumni of ULV. Everyone then returned to the museum, where Khalif had the group sit as he held court. 

Khalif Rasshan started off with a short story on how he and Vikki had met at ULV, and from there, went right into a group activity. The activity started with Khalif handing out playing cards that read the names of African American inventors and their inventions. All of these were everyday items or other mechanisms that people may not have known were invented by an African American.

“It really is remarkable, and I do that exercise because we were not taught Black history, Black people,” Khalif Rasshan said. “And you all that are not Black, we’re not taught about Black history, because that’s part of the intentionality of keeping our minds in psychological slavery.”

This activity quickly made those participating vulnerable. He had everyone stand up one at a time, talk of someone they have lost, and carry around with them spiritually. Everyone talked of losing grandparents and close friends and how much they meant to them. After presenting their loved ones, they read off their card to present the inventor they were handed.

“There’s really so much to learn,” Michelle Flores, senior liberal arts major, said. “I think it’s very important, even if it’s a small museum, and it’s free, it still gives people the idea of learning about what happened back in the days.”

Khalif then led everyone into another part of the small museum, where a TV was set up with a few chairs. He introduced a short clip of the movie “Hidden Colors II.” The clip shows African American scientists and activists talking about the science of melanin and all the secrets that this skin pigmentation holds.

At the end of the tour, the couple took the group on a quick final look throughout the rest of the museum. Vikki Rasshan sat calmly in her chair, chuckling as Khalif rushed through the various antiques the museum had on display.

“Everything that’s in the museum, especially in the ancient area is foundational for human education, human first, human foundations,” said Khalif Rasshan. “And so we share that with everyone that comes through the door, they’ll have more accurate experience in learning about African Studies. 

Throughout the museum, visitors will find printed paintings of a Black Virgin Mary, merchandise from former President Barack Obama’s campaign, and various objects from ancient Egypt. Offering a chance for people to get a look into a part of the past that has been erased from history books.

“I think it is these activities that give students and staff just the opportunity to learn a little bit more about Black history and culture and understand what a community partner, like the African American Museum of Beginnings, is doing to help,” Hugo said. 

The African American Museum of Beginnings is open Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday from noon to 6 p.m.

Vincent Matthew Franco can be reached at vincent.franco@laverne.edu

Vincent Matthew Franco is a senior journalism major with a concentration in print and online journalism. He has been involved in journalism and print media in high school, community college and is now at the social media editor of the Campus Times and a staff photographer for the Campus Times and La Verne Magazine. He previously served as arts editor.

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