Indelible Impact

Bradley students outside the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. (Photo provided)

Mary Brolley
March 13, 2017

After three days of travel, tens of thousands of steps and very little sleep, a display of jewelry would make the most impact on political science major Maya Valdez ’20, of Escondido, California, during a recent trip to Washington, D.C.

“In the (National Museum of African American History and Culture), there was an exhibit of shackles. The ones slaves wore, and also miniature ones set inside pendants and earrings that slave owners wore. They were a symbol of power,” she said.

Valdez was also struck by an exhibit featuring Jesse Owens, the track and field athlete who won four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. “He defied Hitler’s notion of Aryan supremacy, yet wasn’t invited to the White House to shake President Roosevelt’s hand.”

Valdez and eight other students spent the last weekend in February exploring the nation’s capital with Sherry Gunn, assistant director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Last fall, after traveling to the opening of the African American museum with her family, Gunn raved about the experience to Norris Chase, the office’s executive director. “We talked about it, and began to explore the possibility of sponsoring a trip for our students during Black History Month,” Gunn said.

In addition to the new African American history museum, the students toured the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. “I wish we’d had more time in each place,” Valdez noted. “They were different from each other, but both brought history to life.”

Another highlight was a private tour of the Capitol Building by a staff member of U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly ’78 MA ’82 HON ’14. The students ate at some of the city’s iconic restaurants and walked through the historic Willard Intercontinental Hotel. “It’s where Martin Luther King finished writing his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech,” Gunn said.

Only two of the students had visited Washington, D.C., before. Valdez, a political science major, said the trip gave her a better idea of what she’d like to do after graduation. “I might want to become a political analyst,” she said. “Seeing the Washington Mall, the beautiful scenery, I kept thinking, ‘So many protests happened right here.’”

The visit included a brief walking tour of Howard University, a historically black institution. “A few of the students are considering Howard for graduate school,” Gunn said. “But it wasn’t really a college tour. There was so much else to see.”

Advertising major Niyah Hudson ’19, of Chicago, loved the vibrant atmosphere of the capital. “There were food trucks everywhere, there was music playing. It felt comfortable. I felt like I could maybe live there.”

She was most impressed with the monuments. “There’s so much history. It’s all out there. It feels good to be part of a country like this.”