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Houston Museum of African-American Culture is Taking Back The Narrative

CEO John Guess talks the importance of ownership

By: Symone Daniels

For John Guess Jr, CEO of the Houston Museum of African American Culture (HMAAC), growing up in a family of entrepreneurs he recognized that Black people acquire power through ownership. For 86 years on his mother's side of the family, they have owned and operated the Johnson Funeral Home. On his dad'sthey are longtime partners with Guess Group Inc., a commercial real estate firm located in Houston,Texas. Today he’s keeping his family legacy alive by preserving African-American history through artistic masterworks from renowned artists across the country, and as the landscape of art transforms the HMAAC has stayed with the times. The prominence of NFTs has piqued the interest of artists and collectors alike, and Guess, and the HMAAC have begun collections of their own.

Currently housed in their collection are NFTs that include Nipsey Hussle and Rosa Parks. The most recent to be added, is the Spirit of the Confederacy NFT, which depicts an angel holding a sword and palm branch by Louis Amateis previously located at Sam Houston State Park but moved to HMAAC in 2020, as a result of a call to action from Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. Confederate monuments were created during the Jim Crow era. During this time laws were created to discriminate against black people by reinforcing social practices that were upheld by white supremacy ideologies.

After consulting with the museum board, composed of all black women, they agreed to house one statue under one condition; they wanted to receive a nameless statue because "people are complicated." Guess further explained that people can repent to God and have a change of heart and completely transform their character. Although nameless, the statue still represents a "religious rendering of this, this warrior with a sword and angel wings, this theory of the rightness of that white supremacy," he explained.

HMAAC had a strong desire to empower the black community by taking a symbol of hatred and evil and letting people know that we control the narrative now. The first-way HMAAC went about taking control of the narrative by having Resident Fellow, Willow Curry performed a monologue entitled, "This Is What Hatred Looks Like." Followed by Resident Artist John Sims' presentation of "Burn and Bury '' in which the confederate flag is burned in front of the statue to showcase that the narrative about white supremacy "doesn't exist anymore.

According to Forbes, NFT's non-fungible token "is a digital asset representing real-world objects like art, music, in-game items, and videos. They are bought and sold online, frequently with cryptocurrency, and they are generally encoded with the same underlying software as many cryptos." Non-fungible tokens include special codes that can used to authenticate them.

Although research regarding NFT’s can trace its conception to 2014, one can argue that the history of non-fungible tokens actually began in 2012 with color coins. Bit 2 Me Academy defines a color coin as “a special token that works on the Bitcoin blockchain. A token in which a series of instructions are defined within its Bitcoin Script that can only be fully understood by nodes and wallets adapted to it. Color coins are assets because they live on the blockchain, which is protected by hardware that supports the network. In May 2014, Kevin McCoy’s Quantum became the first non-fungible token available for purchase. It sold for $1.47 million at the Natively Digital: A Curated NFT Sale auction. In addition to giving control to the creator, NFT’s also allow the creator to make a percentage off of the art work every time someone takes possession of the artwork.

The Houston Museum of African American Culture is one of the most visited places in the City of Houston, it rose from humble beginnings, starting as a storefront selling goods in the lobby and office shelves as a way to have a consistent amount of cash flow.

Guess takes pride in being able to recirculate the Black dollar back into the community that significantly supports them. “ We have every artist who shows here do prints that we price for purchasing," he shared.

To learn more about The Houston Museum of African American Culture click here

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