A few years ago, Vashti Dubois turned her home in Philadelphia into the Colored Girls Museum aiming to help others see the past from a different angle.
Black women in Philadelphia liked the idea so much that they donated countless artifacts including quilts, a painting of the singer Lauryn Hill, hand tools, and wooden statues. In other words, Dubois’ 127-year-old, three-story home contains half-forgotten memories that are tastefully arranged to jog yet heal the memory.
This means like familiar childhood memories stream through the mind, familiar scenes stream through her home. For example, the downstairs mantle is decorated with wooden statues, lace doilies, and huge oil paintings hang on the walls. Upstairs, each of the 10 rooms is actually a chapter from a woman’s life.
“We’re reimagining the museum as a sanctuary for colored girls, DuBois said in a Feb. 9, 2016 interview in Smithsonian magazine. “I want it to be a gathering space, celebrating and acknowledging and looking closely at the things that have shaped us in this country and in the world.”
Since childhood was a painful for many young girls of color, DuBois uses ordinary objects to jog yet heal the mind. The strategy seems to appeal to many women of color including Elizabeth Wellington, a reporter at The Philadelphia Inquirer, who recently wrote, “Walking up the path to the front door of The Colored Girls Museum in Germantown is like a first-time visit to the home of a new girlfriend. A blue tricycle sits tumbled on its side in the front yard. Wind chimes jingle in the frigid, late-winter breeze.”
During the interview, DuBois told Wellington that the museum honors women who are often overlooked. “You see us walking down the street. Everyday colored girls. You walk past us, but here we are in all of our extraordinary splendor doing the things that we do to make this world a great place to live,” Dubois, 56, said. “We aren’t all Michelles and Beyoncés. But look at how we are holding everything together.”
Launched after her husband was unexpectedly killed in a car crash three years ago, the museum presented its first exhibit, “Open for Business,” in 2015. The following spring, Dubois added Sunday tours. In November, the museum closed for winter and reopened in March 2017.
DuBois, a theatre artist, Brooklyn native and graduate of Wesleyan University said the museum would not exist if she hadn’t taken the time to heal here after her husband died.
“When I couldn’t do anything, I could do the steps. I got up. Tended to my son. Sent him off to school. Then I would come up here and go back to bed. And get up just before he came home so he didn’t know that I was in bed all day. And every day, I did a little more until I could do more.”
Dubois said of the museum, “Black women see themselves reflected back at themselves. And it’s also intended for people to see the world through the lens of a colored girl.”
The museum has received widespread publicity. And it has a website plus several social media accounts including Facebook and You Tube.
By Rosaland Tyler