By Alena Cradle Morgan ’19
New Yorkers have never been known for holding their tongues or sugar coating their opinions. An exhibit titled “Activist New York” at the Museum of the City of New York, showcases the many moments throughout history that New Yorkers have used their voices to speak up and protest against social and racial injustices.
“I wanted to learn about the history of New York City. This exhibit seem really cool,” said Walter Kiefer, a visitor to New York from Chicago.
The stunning exhibit allows visitors to listen to and read stories of activists throughout the years. The story of the exhibit begins in the eighteenth century, when nativists would protest against the arrival of immigrants in New York. It goes on to tell the story of lesser known abolitionists fighting against slavery, immigrants fighting for better working conditions, the censoring of women and the civil rights movement. Nothing and no one is left underrepresented in this dynamic display of New York culture. Issues range from the right to drink alcohol to gay liberation, allowing visitors to walk side by side with the revolutionary activists of past and present.
When visitors enter, the captivating room has small clips from different videos, representing each movement, combined in a short film continuously plays on a loop. The walls are decorated with powerful images that symbolize the movement next to them.
“I hope I don’t get killed for being black today,” was written on the sign of a picture of a black women protesting against injustices towards black people.
Towards the back of the exhibit, there are small screens on the wall that allow visitors to listen to the stories of current activists in New York and see the work they do.
“If a child plants it, he will eat it,” said Tony Hillery, founder and director of Harlem Grown. Harlem Grown is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the diets of kids in Harlem by turning empty lots into community gardens. He describes Harlem as a food dessert, filled with nothing but fast food restaurants and kids whose family have food stamps.
Another activist on display is Linda Sarsour, a political activist and media commentator, who tackles issues related to the Islamic community and the Black Lives Matter movement. One of Linda Sarsour achievements is her work with Mayor Bill de Blasio to recognize Islamic holidays in schools and for students to not have school on those holidays.
“Justice is never just us,” said Sarsour, when speaking to a group of young people about activism and her involvement in organizations that tackle different issues.
Visitors at the museum can be part of the exhibit by posting #ActivistNY when they post themselves committing an act of activism.
“Activism to me is doing what you think is right,” said Sarah McHugh, a visitor at the museum.
The Museum of the City of New York is located on the upper west side of Manhattan, next to Central Park, and admission is free for students.