Mobile Museum brings African American history to life in Port Huron

When it comes to the celebration or acknowledgment of Black or African-American history, it’s often designated to February. With Juneteenth on the horizon, it’s time to look at some of the accomplishments and contributions made by African Americans in the country. 

Khalid El-Hakim, founder and CEO of the Black History 101 Mobile Museum has taken the initiative to share and celebrate the history of African-Americans living in the United States. 

Through the collaborative efforts of the Port Huron Branch NAACP Adult and Youth Councils, Community Foundation of St. Clair County, and the Port Huron Area School District, El-Hakim visited Port Huron to share his message, along with a display of historic artifacts from his mobile museum at the James R. Leonard Center located inside of Cleveland Elementary School early last month.  
Members of the Port Huron branch of the NAACP Adult and Youth Councils.
El-Hakim grew up in the city of Detroit and attended college at Ferris State University with dreams of becoming a police officer until one fateful event changed his mind and altered his path forever. 

“One day I was walking out of a restaurant where I was approached by two officers with their guns drawn on me as they told me to get up against the wall,” says El-Hakim. “I was accused of being a suspect in an armed robbery. One of the officers has me against the wall while the other enters the restaurant to investigate, upon his return he says that the bartender accidentally hit the alarm. I wasn’t offered any apology, and the trauma from that incident made me change my mind about ever being a police officer.”

These types of unjust scenarios affect people of color daily, being falsely accused of crimes solely based on skin color. 

In 1995, El-Hakim took a trip to Washington D.C. to experience the Million Man March event called by Minister Louis Farrakhan leader of the Nation of Islam. Over one million African-Americans, primarily men, united to address the ills plaguing the African-American community and to discuss solutions to these problems. After returning from this event, he decided to start his mobile museum.

“I was inspired by the words of Minister Farrakhan to begin to make a positive contribution to our communities,” says El-Hakim. “I started attending weekly meetings of the New Marcus Garvey Movement in Detroit, and it was there that I began showing my small collection of historical artifacts and memorabilia from my personal collection. One thing led to another and I began to display the exhibit at various events such as churches, and Black History Month programs.” 

Michael Jackson was one of the organizers of the song We Are the World, which raised over $60 million for the charity, USA for Africa.

The Black History 101 Mobile Museum is a collection of over 10,000 original artifacts of Black memorabilia that dates from the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade to more modern and current exhibits. The museum aims to educate the public on aspects of American history that many haven’t been exposed to through the public school system or historical museums. 

The Mobile Museum has taken El-Hakim around the world displaying and educating the public on significant events and periods of Black history. 

“This year alone I believe I have made approximately 39 stops in 11 states, but overall I have been to 43 states with over 1000 visits. I visit K-12 schools, colleges and universities, Fortune 500 corporations, religious institutions, libraries, and museums,” El-Hakim says. Other venues include the Chase Center in San Francisco, the Lincoln Center, United Airlines World Headquarters, and the FBI Academy.

A few of the topics discussed at the James R. Leonard Center included racism and its effects on Black history, landmarks and maps that reflected the segregation and mistreatment of African Americans, pop culture and the role it played in the humiliation of the African-American population, and the influence of Black culture in American music history. Of the 10,000 pieces in the Mobile Museum collection, El-Hakim only brought 150 to the James R. Leonard Center to display and discuss. 
Khalid El-Hakim speaks to the crowd attending the Black History 101 Mobile Museum in Port Huron.
“People are often disturbed by the shackles I have on display as well as the lynching photographs, but overall they find the exhibit educational and informative,” El-Hakim says. “One of my more recent and favorite pieces from the exhibit is a hand-written letter by the late rapper Tupac Shakur, an artist who had multi-platinum hits before his untimely demise in 1996. The letter was written to Tupac’s high school sweetheart at the time.” 

Guests who attended the event included Superintendent of the Port Huron Area School District, Theo Kerhoulas, along with St. Clair County Commissioner Jorja Baldwin, members of the Port Huron Branch of the NAACP Adult and Youth Councils, as well as residents from the community. Those in attendance were hit with a range of emotions from shock and disbelief to feelings of pride and celebration. 

“So many people need to hear this message, I learned so much valuable information regarding culture and racism at the event," says Port Huron resident April Malick. "I just wish more people had the courage to learn and listen to Dr. Khalid’s valuable message. What he brings to the table regarding music and culture helps this world to become a better place.”

Vickie Blackburn, a member of the Port Huron Branch of the NAACP, locally known as the “Little Education Lady” says, “Dr. Khalid’s presentation was compelling regarding the horrific past, while also highlighting Black excellence.”

After the presentation, El-Hakim was presented with gifts from the Port Huron Branch of the NAACP to add to his ever-growing collection of artifacts and memorabilia. 

“Dr. Khalid presented our community with valuable information that is important for our youth as well as adults to hear and learn, we are grateful that he shared his time with our community,” says Port Huron NAACP Youth Advisor Mary Williams.
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Read more articles by Harold Powell.

Harold Powell is the Community Correspondent for The Keel and owner of Phantom Pen Media offering multimedia services to individuals and organizations across the Blue Water Area. He is a current board member for the Blue Water Area Chamber of Commerce and the most recent Chamber Choice recipient at the Eddy Awards. Harold is an avid volunteer for the YMCA of the Blue Water Area as well as Bridge Builders Counseling & Mentoring and in his spare time, enjoys spending time with his son, writing and listening to music, playing video games, and not folding laundry.