Founded in 1976, the African American Museum in Philadelphia is the first cultural institution funded and built by a major municipality to preserve, interpret and exhibit the heritage of African Americans.
Throughout its 40-year history, AAMP has remained committed to telling the story of African Americans from pre-Colonial times to the current day.
“Over the past four decades we understand that we are a touchstone for our region’s cultural landscape,” said its CEO, Patricia Wilson Aden. “We want to ensure that we continue to be the premier destination offering a unique perspective on African American art, history and culture — and also that of the African Diaspora.
“This is an important and broad mission,” she said. “One thing that we have been doing for the past 18 to 24 months is looking at how we want to realize that mission. We even came up with a new mission statement that I think is reflects our energy.
“Our new mission statement says specifically that we are bringing diverse communities together in greater appreciation of a Black experience. We talked a lot about the words and the approach that we wanted to use and we came to the conclusion that we are unapologetically Black. We are celebrating the Black experience, in that positive Black experience is what we want present not only to the African-American community, but all communities because everyone has something to learn,” Aden said.
“African-American history is American history. African-American art and culture is American art and culture. Those people that need to appreciate, understand and be educated about that is very expansive — and that’s what we’ve been trying to do,” she added.
AAMP currently houses four galleries and an auditorium, each of which offers exhibitions anchored by one of three dominant themes: the African Diaspora, the Philadelphia Story and the Contemporary Narrative. “We looked at where we wanted to go, building on four decades that we’ve had, and I think that our exhibits reflect that we want to really engage our audience to the power and the promise of the Black experience,” said Aden. “I think our exhibits embodies the values and signals our commitment to this new direction that we are going in.”
The upcoming AAMP 40th Anniversary Gala will honor Cathy Hughes and Alfred C. Liggins III of Radio One for their dynamic careers, philanthropy and successful companies.
“Their philanthropy offers a model that we hope other people here in Philadelphia will take a look at,” said Aden. “Cathy Hughes and Radio One have been very generous in their support of Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture.
“Alfred Liggins has supported the Apollo Theater Foundation. They are very generous in their support of HBCUs. So, these are people who have gained a certain position in their lives and they have decided to give back to African-American cultural communities, and I think that is very exciting,” she said.
Aden added: “Our gala is hopefully widely recognized as a really fun event. Our gala has really taken on a different type of feel and people enjoy the networking, entertainment and experiencing the museum in a different way.”
The 40th anniversary gala will begin at 6:30 p.m Friday March 24 at the Marriott Downtown, 1201 Market St.