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  • Antoinette Ellis-Williams

Pop-up museum in Newark highlights civil rights struggles, urges residents to vote (

By Steve Strunsky | NJ Advance Media for

Shennell McCloud had a dream. Like the dream Martin Luther King Jr. described in his Washington, D.C., speech on Aug. 28, 1963, McCloud’s also involved racial justice and equality. “I had a dream that myself and my team were heading to Brooklyn, and we were going to do something big in the community, and when I woke up, I started to think, what could that dream have been?” said McCloud, 36, a Newark native and mother of three who’s CEO of Project Ready, a nonprofit voting rights advocacy group. “And it made me think, what would it look like if we had a pop-up museum that specifically focused on voters?” About 50 people found out on Wednesday when McCloud hosted a preview of the Voting Power Experience pop-up museum inspired by her dream, housed in a former Salvation Army emergency shelter at 79 University Ave. in downtown Newark, which will be open afternoons and evenings Friday-Monday through June 30, starting this Friday. Click here for hours and free tickets. The museum aims to improve Newark’s typically low turnout at the polls, with its opening date less than two weeks before school board elections on April 25 and two months ahead of the June 6 primaries for November’s state Senate and Assembly races. To emphasize the effort and sacrifice that helped secure voting and other rights for people of color, the museum combines artworks and recreations of iconic moments and locations in American history. There is a lunch counter replicating the one at a Woolworth’s in Greensboro, North Carolina, where in 1960, four Black college students staged a sit-in to protest the whites-only policy there and at countless other establishments throughout the South. Wooden desks and chairs from the 1950′s evoke the New Orleans elementary school classroom desegregated by 6-year-old Ruby Bridges. A digital image of a striding Bridges and another student, “Ruby Moves Through Segregation” by Newark artist and educator Antoinette Ellis Williams, is among dozens of works in the museum.

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