This Woman Turned Her Philadelphia Home Into A Museum For Black Women And Girls

Photo by The Colored Girls Museum
The Colored Girls Museum is a place where black girl's stories --and magic-- are the main show!

Vashti Dubois likes to talk the talk and walk the walk.

That’s why when she saw the need for a space that celebrates the full spectrum of black womanhood, she decided to open one herself…

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...In her own home!

And from there, The Colored Girls Museum was born two years ago. Alongside her partners, curator Michael Clemmons and associate director Ian Friday, she has transformed her 127-year-old, three-storied home into a sanctuary for the black girl’s story.

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“I, like many black women I know, grew up being told I had to be twice as good to get half as far. What an incredible burden! What an impossible task!” Dubois tells ESSENCE.COM, adding that a personal tragedy as well as the death of Sandra Bland were  big motivators for her. 

“I decided to open this museum because I felt it was important to create a space where I could honor and celebrate the ordinary lives experiences and stories of other colored girls like me —and of course that meant honoring my own ordinary.”

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Dubois is currently the executive director of the museum, which hosts temporary exhibits with titles like “A Good Night’s Sleep“, and a single permanent exhibit that is an ode to the colored girls' history as domestic servants. Each room has been carefully converted and curated into installations by artists from the community telling their own stories of black women. And by having the museum in her home, Dubois believes that it is essentially “eviction-proof.”

Through some community funding, and support, and exhibit contributions from friends, Dubois has been able to produce something from nothing in just over two years, a reminder how black women always persevere and achieve even with very little.

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“...This is not what I would have planned if I had had the resources to imagine what I wanted a museum for colored girls to look and be like,” she tells ESSENCE.COM. “But I wanted to do this and this house was what I had. And just as I had to accept that my ordinary was good enough and worthy to just be whoever I was, I had to accept that this house was good enough to be a starting place for this museum.”

The museum attracts all kinds of visitors. And although it is centered around black girls and women, Dubois believes our story is universal.

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“If you don’t know the colored girls story you don’t know anyone’s stories,” she said. “The colored girls position in the world community has forced her to be a carrier. Our stories intersect and overlap with everyones else's stories.”'

“If we do not tell our stories, and allow those stories to make our sacred spaces, who else will?”

For now, she offers guided tours on Sundays with the hopes that black women leave understanding their power no matter where they are in life.

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“I hope when black women come here they see a piece of themselves, they feel the peace, the intention,” she said. “I hope that this ordinary house becomes a demonstration of what we mean when we say where you are and what you have is good enough.”

 “It means that we ourselves have decided that our stories matter, and we are gathering to share witness and celebrate those stories from the magnificent to the mundane.”

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Filed under: Culture