Rep. Gregory Meeks said Friday that the opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture is a testament to the progress the United States has made in race relations.
“It is an American story, the American story,” the New York Democrat told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on “New Day.” “It’s great for all Americans when you go look at from the beginning of slavery in America to where we are today.”
“All Americans get to see the progress and contributions that African Americans made to this great country of ours,” he added.
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are scheduled to attend Saturday’s opening ceremony where the President will give remarks. Former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, are expected to attend as well.
Meeks said the museum will allow visitors to see America’s effort to make strides in race issues.
“I think that for generations yet unborn, people will then get to see the American story and the greatness of it as how it has evolved and continues to evolve in attempting to be a more perfect union,” he said.
The congressman’s comments about progress come the same week he spoke out about tension between black communities and law enforcement following the fatal shootings of two black men.
Terence Crutcher was shot and killed last week in Tulsa, Oklahoma, after his car broke down. The 40-year-old black man raised his hands above his head just before Officer Betty Shelby fatally shot him. Crutcher was unarmed at the time.
Meanwhile, multiple police officers and citizens have been injured in Charlotte, North Carolina, this week during protests after the fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott by a police officer. Police say Scott was armed at the time he was fatally shot, but his family claims that he was reading a book in his vehicle when police officers approached and shot him.
Meeks told Camerota about wanting Congress to pass laws providing more federal funding to train local law enforcement how to deescalate tense situations with citizens.
“There are various bills that have already been written that we need to talk about. We need to have hearings on them and then vote them on the floor,” Meeks said. “For example, we have to fund more body cameras. Because what we know is when you have a visual view of what’s going on, it helps transparency. Because an issue in a lot of cases is ‘Is this a matter of transparency?'”
Meeks was also part of a delegation that marched to the Department of Justice Thursday to present Attorney General Loretta Lynch with a letter demanding an investigation into the shootings.
“We need the Attorney General to act. We need her to act now,” he said Thursday at a news conference. “And the members of the Congressional Black Caucus are not going to sit back and do nothing we’re going to make sure we’re going to push for legislation.”