Forgotten Images exhibit illuminates black history at LBCC

Story by Aspyn Sewell Photos by Melanie Gerner and Johana Trujillo

Pieces of black americana on display in the Forgotten Images exhibit. These are sinks accompanied by signs that segregated their use between whites and blacks.

The traveling Black History museum, Forgotten Images, educated students during Black History Month with exhibits of black americana and a “What it means to be black” panel in the student lounge of LAC.

The museum showcased unique facts on the history of blacks in America from the very beginning.

Thankful for Forgotten Images, Dr. Alicia Kirkwood, the interim Dean of Student Services, very proudly proclaimed, “Nothing in this country happened by accident. And, we have an entire museum and exhibits behind me to show the reason why we can’t identify what it means to be black!”

The museum contained pieces of  black americana that were retrieved from multiple states.

On display were nooses used in the lynching of slaves, steel handcuffs, chains, original black face masks, and fountains that only ‘colored’ people could drink from.

A Klu Klux Klan robe hangs above the photo of a hanged slave and rope used for hangings. The Birth of a Nation, a movie that glorified the KKK movement in the beginning of the 20th century, has it’s movie poster on the left.

“Black face is really a hood that you cut eyes out of, and that was black face, if you didn’t want to use paste,” said the owner of Forgotten Images, David McLucas.

McLucas has had several experiences with racism that led to his inspiration for such an empowering movement for the black community.

“A white man had a restaurant called Coon Chicken in different states like Washington, Oregon, and Utah,” said McLucas.

“You actually have to walk through the coon, bright red, big lips, to get inside. When I seen that I was very inspired to get into black americana; because they actually use us to market everything,”

One of the museums more disheartening exhibits included two black plush dolls, designed using black face caricature, that were partnered with an alligator which told the story of ‘alligator slave babies’, which were kidnapped black children that were used as bait for hunting alligators in the swamps of the south.

The exhibit also explains that babies would also be thrown overboard during the transporting of slaves from Africa to America, if they were deemed not strong enough to work in the fields.

Many of these facts are often not taught until the college level of education; and many students at the panel expressed feeling comfortable being able to access the truth, with real memorabilia, about what happened to the black culture from the beginning of America’s time.

LBCC student Taylor Clanton looks at an authentic Aunt Jemima grill. Aunt Jemima was well known for her pancakes and people would excitedly line up for a chance to try them.

Forgotten Images also displayed a brand new Aunt Jemima griddle, as well as the  menus she used to serve the thousands of people that would come stand for hours for her pancakes.

“Everything you see here is real. black americana is expensive. I made a $12,000 offer for one of these Aunt Jemima grills to a lady in L.A. and she turned it down. I actually bought this one for quite a bit of money from Chicago. This is just some of it, we have over 20 thousand items,” said McLucas.

In honor of Madam C.J. Walker, the first African-American woman to become a self-made millionaire, hair care products were displayed alongside her photo with facts about the exhibit.

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama had a huge display as well, where students could learn about their history and all the work that they do for the black community.

A few years ago, some of the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African-American military pilots who fought in World War II,  partnered with Derek Oriee, LBCC Student Activities Advisor, and the traveling museum as speakers.

On February 20th 2019, a Tuskegee Airmen expert accompanied the museum again, this time at LBCC.

Orrie firmly stands behind the intentions of the traveling museum and its educational benefits for students, especially its core value for the black community.

“The intention of Forgotten Images is to educate all people of things that have happened with our past in our culture,” said Oriee.

Oriee went on to explain how these types of museums are a source of empowerment to him by expressing prior experiences that affected himself and his stepson in recent years.

“I was seriously talked down to by a white male at a restaurant for wearing my hat inside. The man made two remarks to me about my hat. I actually thought he was kidding, so I made light of it. My wife pointed out to me what had just happened once he walked away,” said Oriee.

“My stepson went to a HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities)  in the south and he couldn’t last over 3 semesters before he came back home. He is mixed, and his own people, talked to him poorly and treated him so bad. He came home. He had been raised in Corona all his life. He was not ready for that,” Orrie continued.

“Sharon, the owner’s wife, was in my class over at Leadership in Long Beach, mentioned to me that they were just starting this museum. I told her to bring it over to our campus. That was back in 2008,” Oriee said.

LBCC students were given the opportunity to meet and hear words of wisdom from black influencers and successors as a part of Forgotten Images  right along with gaining knowledge of black culture and events.