Association of African American Museums Commemorates 50 Years of Hip-Hop in Annual Conference

Above: AAAM 2022 Conference, photo by DreamFocus Photography.

The Association of African American Museums (AAAM) is gearing up for its highly anticipated annual conference, set to take place in Nashville, Tennessee from July 26-28. This year’s event, themed “Museums, Music and Movements,” will celebrate the rich legacy of hip-hop and its pivotal role in African American culture. Prominent figures from the hip-hop industry, including Grammy-nominated artist and actress Yolanda “Yo-Yo” Whitaker, will contribute to the vibrant discussions and activities planned for the conference.

Hip-hop, with its roots in advocacy, emerged 50 years ago as a powerful means of shedding light on the socioeconomic disparities and inequality faced by Black and brown communities. Vedet Coleman-Robinson, Ph.D., the Executive Director of AAAM, emphasizes the shared values between hip-hop and the Association, stating, “Much like hip-hop, AAAM stands against racial inequality, shares stories important to the Black community, and serves as a beacon of hope in times of social unrest.”

Yo-Yo, an esteemed ambassador of the National Museum of African American Music in Nashville, the Universal Hip Hop Museum in the Bronx, New York, and the city of Little Rock, Arkansas, will play a significant role in the conference. With a three-decade-long entertainment career, she has dedicated herself to using hip-hop as a tool for education, scholarship opportunities, and empowering youth.

Omar Eaton-Martinez, AAAM’s board president and Senior Vice President for Historic Sites at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, expresses his excitement about the conference’s focus on music’s significance in African American culture. He commends the Association’s commitment to storytelling, emphasizing the role it plays in preserving African and African American history for future generations.

As AAAM enters its 45th year, the annual conference continues to bring together museum professionals from around the world for professional development activities and fruitful exchanges of ideas. The event not only facilitates learning and growth but also offers a much-needed opportunity for attendees to recharge and share their experiences. Coleman-Robinson explains, “Sharing African and African American stories is inherently difficult. AAAM provides safe spaces for its members to recharge while learning about best practices that will better serve their communities.”

The Association of African American Museums comprises a diverse network of cultural organizations, historical societies, museums, educational institutions, research centers, and cultural centers. Founded in 1978, AAAM has experienced remarkable growth under the leadership of Coleman-Robinson, now boasting over 1,200 individual and institutional members worldwide, representing a growth rate of over 200% since 2019.

To ensure its members are well-equipped in their work, AAAM’s working group, supported by a multi-year grant from the Mellon Foundation, focuses on providing information and guidance in crucial areas such as security, accreditation, and exhibitions. Additionally, AAAM partnered with the Howard University School of Business in 2022 to establish an advanced executive training program, enabling participants to advance their careers through courses in conscientious leadership, strategic design thinking, fundraising, nonprofit business, and strategic community relations.

Coleman-Robinson emphasizes the organization’s resilience and unwavering dedication to sharing African and African American stories, regardless of trends or external influences. While the surge in interest following the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement and the recognition of Juneteenth as a federal holiday has brought attention to this important work, AAAM has been trailblazing for over four decades. Members have persevered through financial challenges, threats to structural integrity, and other obstacles to ensure their communities have access to these invaluable stories.

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