NAAM’S communications manager Leilani Lewis, left, and exhibitions manager Chieko Phillips.
  • Kelly O
  • NAAM’S communications manager Leilani Lewis, left, and exhibitions manager Chieko Phillips.

Back in September, I wrote an article, "Northwest African American Museum Just Became a Lot More Relevant," that praised NAAM's ability to not only hold exhibits that have historical value but to respond to current events that have an immediate impact on the black community and Seattle as a whole. I attributed this flexibility to the museum's openness to the ideas of its young staff members, and also to its realism: NAAM should not isolate itself in a city whose black population has been decreasing for the past 20 years, but instead form links with other institutions that represent a variety of interests and cultural perspectives.

And this is precisely the point that NAAM's communications manager Leilani Lewis and exhibitions manager Chieko Phillips make in a new essay, "#FERGUSON_Sea: A 10 day study in social media and responsive programming" (it's a PDF), posted by the Association of African American Museums. Responding to my article, Lewis and Phillips explain that ideas for presentation and response are not only found in the museum's staff, or its target community, but also completely unexpected places and institutions, such as PechaKucha Seattle, an organization that has its roots in the design community:

The PechaKucha format… lends itself to the democratization of museums by creating space for multiple voices to be heard. The pluralistic nature of responses to tragedies like [Michael] Brown’s murder also partners well with the PechaKucha’s ability to host multiple disciplines and genres of presentations. Understanding this flexibility, Leilani Lewis and Davida Ingram [of Seattle People of Color Salon] collaboratively developed a roster of community members, scholars, artists, lawyers and activists who delivered compelling thoughts on Mike Brown’s murder, police brutality and ways to combat multiple forms of racism.
Lewis and Philips also mention the importance of understanding and utilizing social media and creating opportunities for collaborations. Yes, racism is old, but what does all of this sound like? I can't help myself. I have to say it: Black to the future.