Can you open your mind?
That’s the question one Midwest museum is posing to visitors.
Along the banks of downtown Cincinnati sits the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center — a facility that prides itself on being a museum of conscience, a convener of dialog and a center that educates.
This month, the museum opened the Open Your Mind: Understanding Implicit Bias learning lab, designed to assist the public in understanding and recognizing bias and other forms of discrimination. The lab is participatory, involving educational and entertaining hands-on exercises.
Partnering with the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University, the lab also explores recent debates on implicit bias, which are the attitudes or stereotypes that affect a person’s understanding, actions and decisions in an unconscious manner.
In fact, research has show that all people harbor implicit bias even if they seem to hold no explicit prejudice, says Jamie Glavic, director of marketing and communications at the center.
While at the center visiting the lab, which is free with general admission, visitors will want to check out a number of other exhibits including “Faith and Fashion: The Crowns of African American Women.”
The exhibit, which runs through April 1, highlights the various self-expressions of women of all ages and celebrates African-American church culture.
“Church services are a time of worship and praise,” Glavic said. “Oftentimes, in African-American churches, in addition to hearing songs and sermons, observers cannot help but look in amazement at the various hats of its female parishioners.”
In addition to exploring the various colors of crowns, personal narratives will account for the historical celebration of how Black women broken away from their domestic uniforms for Sunday services.
With more than 100,000 visitors annually, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center serves to inspire modern abolition through connecting the lessons of the Underground Railroad with today’s freedom fighters, Glavic said.
“Our physical location in downtown Cincinnati is just a few steps from the banks of the Ohio River, the great natural barrier that separated the slave states of the South from the free states of the North,” she said. “Since opening in 2004, we have filled a substantial voice in our nation’s cultural heritage, providing a vivid account of the inspiring narrative of the antebellum Underground Railroad.”
This distinct experience is the tie that connects Americans to the universal and ongoing struggle for freedom, Glavic said.
“We believe in inclusive freedom — all people enjoying rights and privileges of equal kind, equal number and equal quality,” she said. “We teach people to embrace their common humanity and to realize their power to advance freedom - the birthright of every human being.”
Other exhibits currently at the museum include a virtual experience that commemorates Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks’ historic demonstration and “From Slavery to Freedom,” which portrays three centuries of slavery from its introduction into the Americas to its abolition at the end of the American Civil War.
Beginning March 24, a new exhibit, “Mandela: The Journey to Ubuntu,” which commemorates the life and legacy of former South African President Nelson Mandela through photographs.
The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, go to freedomcenter.org.
WHILE YOU’RE IN THE AREA:
Harriet Beecher Stowe House
Details: This house is operated as a cultural site and focuses on the life of the author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”
John Rankin House
Details: Located in Ripley, Ohio, this house along the Underground Railroad is one of the state’s best documented stations.