'Traveling While Black' Virtual Reality Exhibit Opens In DMV Area
Photo Credit: CottonBro

Photo Credit: CottonBro

'Traveling While Black' Virtual Reality Exhibit Opens In DMV Area

black owned business , Washington D.C. , United States , news
Parker Diakite
Parker Diakite Jan 18, 2022

There’s a new virtual reality experience at the McLean Community Center (MCC) in Virginia designed to educate and serve as a teaching moment of the complexities of traveling while Black.

The Traveling While Black Virtual Reality (VR) experience features a film by Academy Award-winning director Roger Ross Williams who depicts the dangers and difficulties that African Americans navigated generations ago still linger. 

“‘Traveling while Black’ is a term people use to illustrate that in America when you are Black and you are going from point A to point B, you are always at risk,” Williams said.

Once visitors put on that headset, it becomes a conversation where they receive living history lessons and personal accounts told around a booth in Ben’s Chili Bowl. The restaurant, which is also an iconic Black-owned landmark in the nation’s capital, was chosen because it has been a mainstay of the African American community since 1958. Ben’s Chili Bowl has witnessed significant Civil Rights milestones, which are woven into the film.

“Ben’s Chili Bowl [is] a safe place for the Black community to stop and eat when they couldn’t before stop in other major restaurants and venues,” MCC Executive Director Daniel Singh tells WTOP.


The virtual experience is holding nothing back as it takes its audiences on a journey, highlighting big moments from Civil Rights leader Courtland Cox to the heartbreaking words of Samaria Rice, whose young son Tamir was killed by police in 2014.

Black residents even talk about their experience growing up in the area in the early 1950s. One woman stated, “When we would leave Washington, D.C., on the train, we could sit anywhere on the train until you got to the Virginia line. When you get to the Virginia line, you had to go to the last train in the back.”

According to MCC staff, the VR allows Williams to connect the parallels of the past to the present.

“Traveling While Black connects technology, art, and social justice in a palpable and powerful manner,” MCC Singh says.

Singh hopes the movie will allow people to begin healthy conversations to foster tangible change.

The VR experience is free and open to the public through Saturday, Feb. 12. Appointments are required Wednesday through Saturday, from noon to 8 p.m.; and Sunday, from noon to 6 p.m.

For more information, click here.

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