For years Vashti Dubois was sick of not seeing any images of black women or girls in museums and art galleries, so three years ago she decided to do something about it.
The 56-year-old turned her house into The Colored Girls Museum, celebrating everything about black women and their place in the universe. The Museum is headquartered in the historic neighborhood of Germantown in Philadelphia, an area renowned for its compliment of historic buildings and homes.
Standing in the hallway, which screams with color due to every inch being painted, she said: ‘If things ain’t right you got to make them right, and if you can change things, you gotta change them.’
After opening one room to the public, she decided to turn her bedroom, the bathroom, the kitchen and her son’s bedroom into art galleries. Dubois said, “There are a lot of museums about a lot of different things, so we thought there should be one about the colored girl because there are no places that look at their experiences. We want to show who she is in her day-to-day life as a sister, a lover, a friend, an artist, a victim. We want to show that if there were no colored girls, the system would collapse.”
The Colored Girls Museum d
And unlike most museums, this is personal. There are no walking tours headsets, no bored-looking security guards, and not a gift shop in sight.
The first museums in America were in private people’s homes, but with federal funding giant organizations like The Smithsonian cornered the market. Vashti gets no money from the Government.
The museum is open on Sundays, and every Sunday morning she washes all of the surfaces with vinegar and water, and burns sage, frankincense, and myrrh to ensure the ‘energy’ is right. Some Sundays more than 100 people turn up, the majority of them black women. From the reviews, visitors love it and end up seeing Vashti as ‘a BFF, not a museum owner’.
The former theatre actress’ bedroom inspired the first major exhibition – A Good Night’s Sleep. Several artists contributed their work, and the show attracted around 1,000 visitors.
The Colored Girls Museum is a memoir museum, which honors the stories, experiences, and history of black girls. And it is Vashti’s story too.
She said, “Colored girls are an important part of the universe. 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.”
“We aren’t all Michelles (Obama) and Beyoncés. But look at how we are holding everything together for families across the world.”
The Colored Girls Museum and Institute is in the process of applying for 501c3 status. Please inquire about fiscal sponsor if interested in making a tax deductible donation.
Address: 4613 Newhall Street, Philadelphia, PA 19144