SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) — Black Girl Magic Museum owner and founder Dominique Hamilton ends her pop-up stay at The Standard Downtown Lofts after setting shop back in April.
While the pop-up exhibit was created as a way to help Black girls realize their worth and to showcase female African American trailblazers and other Black culture, Hamilton said recently that it was an encounter with a group of Black male youth, found most impactful.
During the city’s Bayou Classic football held in April, Hamilton encountered a group of about 20 to 30 young men who were hanging out outside the museum.
“They were hanging out smoking and drinking and doing the whole nine yards,” Hamilton said. “They even admitted they were the ones terrorizing the city. We brought them in and told them about their history and their culture. We talked to them about economics and Black Wall Street.”
Hamilton said the young men were very respectful to her and her staff and listened to the point where they wanted to stay in touch with her to learn more about running a business and to share ideas. They even asked her for her telephone number.
“They wanted to set up classes to learn how to host programming,” Hamilton said. “That’s one thing I say to Shreveport leaders is to reach out to the youth and engage them. Allow them to be part of the planning for what happens in the city. When they have ownership, they will have a more positive outlook.”
Hamilton said her business is more than a museum and that the museum is what draws the people in. She added that it’s called Black Girl Magic but males are more than welcome to take part.
“As a business owner, especially with my demographics being African American, learning the markets to go into and how to capture the support was very new and also it takes a lot with having a brick and mortar and being able to balance everything and knowing the right questions to ask. It’s taught me a lot about how to do a popup in different cities.”
Hamilton’s tip to other entrepreneurs thinking of doing a popup business is to make sure to connect with the right people, whether it’s the sororities, schools, city council and other local governments, churches, community groups, the “pulse” of the community.
Overall, Hamilton said they had a great turnout with about 2000 people coming through. She does, however, that she could have done more in terms of promoting the museum here in Shreveport.
“We came here during a pandemic,” Hamilton said. “In the secondary markets, you have to do more than television in terms of promotion. You have to have a more grassroots effort with promotion. That’s one thing I definitely learned. People will come out and support you once they realize you’re here.”
Based in Dallas, the pop-up museum is an interactive, educational, and immersive experience paying homage and honor to the contributions of Black women in history and to Black culture.
The museum features murals, props, literature, and a new “representation matters” wall highlighting black female trailblazers.
A huge mural of Michele Obama that graced the back wall quickly became a center point for selfies and other photo opportunities.
While the museum showed the positive side of African American culture, it also featured Black women who were killed during encounters with law enforcement.
Paintings of Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor depicted in a room just outside of a small, dark jail cell, triggered reminders of what Black people face when they come in contact with law enforcement.
Bland was a 28-year-old African-American woman who was found hanged in a jail cell in Waller County, Texas, on July 13, 2015, three days after being arrested during a traffic stop.
Taylor was a 26-year-old African-American woman fatally shot in her Louisville, Kentucky, apartment on March 13, 2020, when plainclothes officers from the Louisville Metro Police Department forced entry into the apartment allegedly as part of a drug dealing investigation.
Hamilton said she has already started building those community bridges she spoke of earlier and is looking forward to coming back to Shreveport.
“I’ve actually worked and been in touch with Southern University Shreveport Louisiana is helping me bridge that gap between Black Girl Magic Museum and the (community).”
Hamilton is also working to build a board of directors made up of women and men in the communities they serve in order to build programming around what’s needed in the those communities.