SMC Professor Relays Life Story to Local Oakland Museum

Dr. Paulina Van The African American Museum and Library at Oakland (AAMLO), located downtown on 14th Street adjacent to Preservation Park, is a museum and library dedicated to preserving the history and experiences of African Americans in Northern California and the Bay Area. Among the more than 160 collections in the library are archives relating to Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, Africa, and genealogy.

Early this summer the AAMLO featured a new permanent exhibit, 'Visions Toward Tomorrow: The African American Community in Oakland, 1890 – 1980, showcasing photographs, manuscripts, letters, home movies, newspapers, and interviews with 60 multiethnic and multigenerational residents of Oakland. One of the people featured in this exhibit is Paulina Van, RN, Ph.D., Samuel Merritt College Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing (SoN).

"I am humbled they asked me to be a part of this exhibit, among the many notable and accomplished people in the community," said Dr. Van. "The interview was about family, work, philosophy, values, education--the life and history of the African American person who lives in Oakland."

Rick Moss, Chief Curator of the AAMLO, says the exhibit is a chronology of historical accomplishments by generations of Oakland's African American pioneers to inform future generations.

"Our exhibit does not focus on victimization, not on slavery and being the 'other.' It's about the things that connect us as human begins, and those concepts of love, hope, wisdom are essential to everybody," said Moss. "Dr. Van came across as a warm person who really held the importance of family close to her heart, deep seeded feelings of love, hope, and belief in the good of human beings. It was a moving interview."

AAMLO Exhibit

Though the African American community in Oakland originally started as early as 1849, the exhibit begins the history in 1890 when the railroads were established in the East Bay and the community really began to "blossom." What you won't find in this exhibit are life histories of famous African Americans during the Civil War or Civil Rights movement.

"It's about everybody living in Oakland, making history in their own way and having important things to say that people can relate to-- and that comes across in all the interviews we did," said Moss.

For Dr. Van, she hopes her life story offers a lesson of survival and commitment for women and children.

"I had an opportunity to talk about struggles, and I think it's important for people who have goals, who are striving and struggling, to see people like them because it's motivating. When you see someone who has struggled and made it, it helps you to know it is achievable."

The touch-screen interactive exhibit allows users to access the individual interviews. The African American Museum and Library at Oakland is open Tuesday through Saturday from 12:00 – 5:30pm.

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