We Want to Be Free Opening (Courtesy of Compton Art & History Museum)

According to the values of the Compton Art & History Museum, reclaiming one’s identity is an act of social justice in its own right.

Spearheaded by Abigail Lopez-Byrd and her husband, Mark Byrd, the Compton Art & History Museum holds a new light that cultivates community growth and reflects the history found in surrounding neighborhoods. The museum looks to blend the multicultural experience of living in South L.A. by shaping the narrative found through art.

Compton native Abigail Lopez-Byrd designed a custom lane in opening a museum and non-profit in her neighborhood, intending to create a space of self-discovery.

Abigail said, “As a young person, folks go through trying to figure out who they are. I realized, ‘Why don’t we start doing this earlier? How come we don’t provide these spaces for young people to start figuring out who they are, where they come from and who they want to be?’”

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The Compton Art & History Museum’s logo was inspired by the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial (Courtesy image)

Abigail found her career path and it led her back to her community rooted in Compton. She opened the museum on Feb. 18, 2023. Located at 306 West Compton Boulevard, the Compton Art & History Museum is open from Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Abigail also orchestrates the parent non-profit organization that houses the work of the museum, Color Compton.

(Courtesy of Compton Art & History Museum)

Under the Color Compton umbrella, Compton Community Archiving Fellowship encourages youth to engage in critical debates about stories, race and power. Youth are urged to think critically about what ‘archiving’ means and who can be an archivist. During the fellowship, individuals are guided in recording and digitizing their family archives by doing an in-depth investigation of the family photo album.

As a Mexican American woman who grew up in Compton, Abigail is often walking a narrow path of acceptance within her culture and beyond. She has often found that certain opinions weigh out her work based on her association with another culture. Some viewpoints from her community gave off the feeling that “she’s not doing enough” for the progression of her ethnicity.

“I’m very much aware of it,” Abigail said, “It’s all about identity and stories and Compton is so unique because it’s a place of identity. It does carry a lot of weight. There’s a reason why people name-drop Compton.”

Abigail specified that she knows that her story growing up in Compton is close to a collective nerve that sends a strong message to the audience.

“As a non-Black person from Compton, I know my experience is very different,” Abigail continued, “I navigated that in so many different spaces.”

3. As of March 1, the museum was exhibiting a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr., “We Want to be Free,” and honored the activist’s global and local impact. (Photo by Betti Halsell/L.A Sentinel)

She talked about being in a bi-racial relationship with Mark, who is from the south. His background also holding contrasting angles from hers.

“I think for me, I recognized that there is a unique experience that I had and there are also experiences that I have no idea about—how do we make space for both of those to coexist,” Abigail said.

Other exhibitions that passed through the Compton Art & History Museum included, “Sounds of the City,” showcasing iconic moments with local legends like Dr. Dre and Easy-E.  The archives came from collections photographed by Mike Miller and 100kdai. At the time, Mark explained that the museum carried exclusive pieces that were only made available to Compton Art & History Museum.

As of March 1, the museum was exhibiting a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr., “We Want to be Free,” and honored the activist’s global and local impact.

The show was described as a stimulating exhibition, celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s long legacy and significant impact worldwide and in local communities surrounding Los Angeles. Photos were provided by Kevin B. Jones, Damion Lowe, Angel Hernandez, and Shafik Kadi. The archives were presented by the L.A. Public Library.

The Compton Art & History Museum’s logo was inspired by the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, which celebrates his legacy. It is bounded by the Compton Court House, Compton City Hall, and Compton Public Library.

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