By Savannah Tanbusch, Bloc Reporter
Xavier Carnegie walks down the east wing hall of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, carrying a picket sign and singing, “don’t discriminate, desegregate.”
A crowd follows him as he approaches the Woolworth lunch counter, where the Greensboro sit-in took place in 1960.
He stops to preach to an audience of 40 or more, promoting civil rights and denouncing desegregation.
The counter has been sectioned off from the crowd where it sits on a white block.
This reenactment, held on Feb. 21, has been occuring at the museum since 2008 but this year all the performances are dedicated to the late Franklin E. McCain, Carnegie said.
McCain, a member of the historical Greensboro Four, a group of four university students who sparked the sit-in, died in January, according to a posted sign beside the lunch counter.
Carnegie, the creative director for the American history museum, said living history needs to be highlighted.
In 25 years, the generation that advocated civil rights won’t be around as reminders, Carnegie said.
“I think it’s a good opportunity to honor them for whatever it is that they’re doing,” Carnegie said.
Tim Lewis, a traveling photographer, said he liked the performance.
“Anytime you put something on a pedestal it changes its nature. Artists do it because it adds power and meaning to the object and they’ve done that with this bar counter,” Lewis said.
Lewis said he enjoyed the powerful message that Carnegie brought to his performance.
“I consider myself an integrationist,” Lewis said. “Part of that is that I feel an obligation to include a variety of people in my life.”
Lewis said the young attendees may not comprehend the performance’s meaning.
“A lot of the kids in there were too young,” Lewis said. “You have to be old enough to understand the context. I think it requires at least second or third grade before they can take what [Carnegie] has to offer.”
Several audience members actively participated in the performance, shouting answers to Carnegie’s questions and singing with him.
“This history is very emotional for a lot of people to really sink their teeth into,” Carnegie said. “It’s not something that people are expecting to come to a museum and see.”
For more information concerning showtimes and schedules, visit the Smithsonian website.
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