Breathing Black History: My Trip from Madam C.J. Walker’s Mansion to the National Museum of African American History in DC

BY: - 8 Mar '17 | Lifestyle

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Black history lives and breathes through us each and every day, and though often compartmentalized as something other than American history, it’s vital to know our origins and our “real” story. While we often hear the stories of our struggle, rarely do we see examples of our triumph.

I’ll share a few of those with you in a minute, but first the background.

tnm_bhm_toyotaRecently I was given the opportunity to explore more black history and my answer was a resounding yes. I was more than excited to take part in Toyota’s Let’s Go Places Black History Month Tour , throughout the  Northeast, along with other online influencers and press representatives.

Let’s Go Places was literally what we did over the span of three days as we traveled up and down the east coast and below are my highlights of the trip.

Madam C.J. Walker’s Villa Lewaro Estate

Our first stop was the massive home of America’s first female self-made millionaire, Madam C.J. Walker, Villa Lewaro in Irvington, New York. This amazing property, which is a private residence and National Historic Landmark, was one that I wish everyone had access to see.

Madam CJ Walker Sign

Madam C.J. Walker’s Villa Lewaro Estate in Irvington, NY

The home was built almost 100 years ago at a cost of $250,000.00 by Verner Tandy, the first registered black architect in New York state, when the average home cost was only $2,500.00. Madam Walker also was charged with a “black tax” paying twice the price for the land that her white counterparts had to pay.

Villa Lewaro

Madam C.J. Walker’s Villa Lewaro Estate in Irvington, NY

I was able to walk in the same footsteps, through the same rooms that others such as W.E.B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey and Langston Hughes have. This powerful moment hit me as we stood in the master bedroom of the home, the room that Madam Walker herself passed away in, at the age of just 51 years old.

As a lover of all things black and a passionate entrepreneur how could I not be moved?

Moved to better.

Moved to do more.

Moved to take what I’m doing to the next level!

Madam C.J. Walker's Organ

Madam Walker’s original Estey organ purchased for $25,000 which was an astronomical price at the time.

This was just more concrete proof that still we rise above obstacles, oppression and hurdles placed in our way.

I spent time reflecting on the power of entrepreneurship while we stood on the property that’s massive, even by today’s standards, and wondering how impressive it must have been nearly 100 years ago when it was built.

After leaving Villa Lewaro, we headed back to the city and took a walking tour of Harlem… capped off by a night at Harlem’s historic jazz house Minton’s for dinner.

Rolling Through Philly

The next morning, we set the navigation and headed down 95 South to the City of Brotherly Love in Toyota’s Crossover SUV the RAV4. As a fan of road trips the drives were an enjoyable lead up to the actual tour stops.

Interior of the 2016 Toyota RAV4

Interior of the 2016 Toyota RAV4

During a day, we made a quick stop at the Liberty Bell and a took tour of a home that functioned as a stop on the Underground Railroad.  However, the highlight was touring the historic Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church on South 6th St.


We had the opportunity to learn about the amazing history of the church and it’s founder Richard Allen, the first Bishop of the A.M.E. church.

The church, founded in 1794, has been on the same plot of land since that time making it the oldest church property in the U.S. to be continuously owned and held by African Americans.

We toured a museum in the church’s basement that did a great job of sharing the history of the church and showcasing artifacts from the past of Mother Bethel.

Also in the church museum is a tomb that houses the remains of Richard Allen, his wife Sarah Allen and the third Bishop of the A.M.E. Church Morris Brown.

There was so much to see at the church and in Philly itself, but the entire group was looking forward to our next stop in Washington, DC!

Stained glass windows inside of Mother Bethel A.M.E.

National Museum of African American History and Culture

The final destination on our black history tour was the one I anticipated the most.

Toyota Avalon in DC

After driving from Philly to DC in the super stylish Toyota Avalon, we arrived at the offices of the National Trust for Historic Preservation where Toyota donated $10,000 to assist them with continuing the work that they do to preserve our countries treasures like Villa Lewaro.  


After that we had a private tour of DC’s hottest ticket, the National Museum of African American History and Culture. There was so much to see and do that the best thing I can do is share how you can maximize the opportunity “if” you can eventually get there yourself. I included the “if” because it’s tough to even get one of the free passes that gives you entry to the building. The museum has already seen over one million visitors since opening on September 24th 2016.

National Museum of African American History and Culture

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Tip #1:

Do get there early! Or at least as early as your passes will allow. There is so much to see that you’ll need an entire day at least. That sounds crazy but just believe me and go with it.

Tip #2:

Have a plan! Since there is so much to see you need to have a strategy to make it happen. While the entire museum was jumping with visitors, some exhibits like the coffin of Emmitt Till had long lines…so it would be best to visit those first.

Nat Turner's Bible at the National Museum of American History

Nat Turner’s Bible at the National Museum of American History

Tip #3: 

Go mobile! To enhance your tour download the museum’s mobile app here. You’ll learn more about the exhibits, the building and more.

Child and adult slave shackles on display at the National Museum of American History

Child and adult slave shackles on display at the National Museum of American History

Tip #4:

Bottom up… then top down! Begin your tour on the bottom floors in the history galleries. The bottom level starts with slavery in the 1400’s and each floor advances from there through segregation and then beyond. Take a break for lunch at the Museum’s Sweet Home Café (the food was good) then travel to the top floor and work your way back down. The top two floors house the culture and community galleries and showcase some fascinating exhibits and pieces.

Tip #5:

Be Determined! What you need to know is that the free passes to enter the museum are not currently easy to get your hands on. Advance online passes are offered three months in advance and last week the tickets for June (yes I said June) were all given out in just a few hours! A limited number of same day and walkup passes are available, but I’m sure they’re hard to get as well.

Whatever you have to do to get to the museum and inside will be well worth it. It was an amazing ending to an amazing trip that allowed me to reflect on both our past and my future as we work in our own business to extend the legacy that has been laid before us.

Thanks to Toyota for making this amazing trip happen, it was definitely one that I will never forget. As the owner of a Toyota, not only was I impressed by the trip itself, but I was also impressed by the updates to the line of vehicles and definitely the improved safety features. Can’t wait until the next trip!

BMWK fam you can create your own Black History road tour with your family too! Don’t wait for February, map out history and make it happen. Tag us on social media to let us know how your trips turn out! If you’ve already visited any of the locations above or plan on visiting let me know in the comment section below. 

About the author

Lamar Tyler wrote 2229 articles on this blog.

Lamar Tyler is co-creator He also is the co-producer of the films Happily Ever After: A Positive Image of Black Marriage, You Saved Me, Men Ain't Boys and Still Standing.


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10 Reasons My Mother Is Such an Extraordinary Woman

BY: - 17 Mar '17 | Lifestyle

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It’s Woman’s History month, and although I typically don’t need a designated month to encourage me to celebrate anything, this month does make me reflect on all the phenomenal women in my life.

From friends to cousins to public figures and more, I have recently been thinking a lot about the many women who have done so much to bring me to where I am today. These are women who have contributed to my success, lifted me when I fell down, and push me to see my potential.

I love all of them for that.

But no woman has inspired me to be the woman I am today more than my mother. Her love, encouragement, and strength have carried me through so much since the day I entered this world.

My mother was born into poverty in a small village in Haiti in 1943. Raised by her mother as one of seven kids, my mom learned early on that she had to work hard to get anywhere in this world. It is a lesson she carried with her to the United States in 1969, and it’s a lesson that determined the decisions she would make for years to come.

To grow up in extreme poverty, while being surrounded by people who don’t support you or your dreams, is challenging to say the least. People told my mom she wasn’t special and that she wouldn’t amount to much. She was determined to make sure that narrative was not a part of my life or my brother’s. She told us we could do anything.

I am eternally grateful to her for that.

So as I celebrate Women’s History Month and all the women in the world who have inspired me through their work, their love, and their contributions to society, I want to pay special tribute to my mom by sharing 10 reasons why she is so extraordinary.

She made something out of nothing. As I shared earlier, my mom comes from extremely humble beginnings. She grew up in a place and time where coming to the United States for a better life was simply a dream never realized for many. She hustled and found a way to make it happen, and she built a good life for us in New York City. I could not be more proud of her for that.

She taught me how to love. My mom grew up lacking the love and affection that all kids need. As a result, she went out of her way to give us that love and affection. Because of her vulnerability and her example, I learned how to love. Knowing how to truly love has made all the difference in my life.

TNMMothervsDaughterShe never made me feel inadequate. Sometimes we have a lot of doubts as children, and those doubts can linger well into adulthood. I am so grateful God blessed me with a mother who showed me that I was more than fine just by being myself, and I never need to change to please others.

She has always been there for the people she loves. My mom constantly supported so many people in our family. Honestly, she was supportive to a fault. But I will say that her generosity showed me how to give and how to look out for the people I love. I’ve simply figured out how to do it while setting boundaries.

We always had everything we needed. We didn’t grow up with much when it comes to material things. But we were just fine. We had a roof over our heads, we never went hungry, and my mom got us clothes when we needed them. Yes, we went without certain things, but we always had what we needed to be healthy and happy.

She stepped in where my father fell short. My father was not an active part of our lives. He fell short time and time again. My mom did her best to make sure that we were just fine despite his choices. She used every opportunity she had to step in and do right by us. Because of her efforts (and her ability to never speak poorly of him), I grew up feeling loved and never bitter. My father died years ago, but I have honestly never harbored ill feelings towards him despite his lack of involvement. I thank my mom for that.

She’s a fighter. In recent years my mom has suffered from severe depression, anxiety, a stroke, seizures, a shoulder fracture, cancer, and a number of other medical issues. But you know what? She is still standing. Some days are certainly harder on her than others, but she has been fighting the good fight. She taught me how to be a fighter, too.

Her example taught me how to love God. My mother was the first person in my life to introduce me to the power of God’s love. She has turned to Him time and time again, and has taught me to do the same. There is nothing more powerful than that.

My love for reading and writing is because of her influence. I love to read and write. I fell in love with both at an early age. Although my mom doesn’t have more than an eighth grade education, she went out of her way to raise kids who understand the importance of an education. My brother and I both hold master’s degrees, and we thank her for that. And as I work on my first book, to be released this fall, there is no question I will dedicate it to her.

She never stops believing in me. Even as a grown woman in my late thirties, I still have days when I wake up feeling a bit discouraged. It’s so nice to know that my mother believes in me now just as much as she did when I was ten. In her eyes, I can do it all. She actually believes that I am extraordinary. I love her for that.

BMWK family, we’d love to hear the many reasons why your mother is an extraordinary woman.

About the author

Martine Foreman wrote 496 articles on this blog.

Martine Foreman is a speaker, writer, lifestyle consultant, and ACE-certified Health Coach who specializes in helping moms who want more out of life but feel overwhelmed and confused. Through her content and services, Martine is committed to helping women embrace their personal truth, gain clarity, and take action to create healthier, happier lives. For more on Martine's candid views on life and love, visit her at To work with her, visit her at Martine resides in Maryland with her husband, two kids and sassy cat Pepper.


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