A new initiative to expose Utahns to nearly 200 years of Black history in the state opened Thursday.

Black Museum, Utah is available virtually, but plans are in the works to have a more permanent physical location for the museum in the near future. The interactive display, located at 102 S. Main Street in Salt Lake City, is a collaboration between the Utah Black Chamber and Microsoft.

The launch tied into a series of chamber events during NBA All-Star Week that focus on highlighting Utah's diversity and attracting more of it.

Nikki Walker, Utah Black Chamber of Commerce publicity chair, shows Zions Bank president and CEO Scott Anderson part of Black Museum Utah’s digital interactive exhibit in Salt Lake City on Thursday.
Nikki Walker, Utah Black Chamber of Commerce publicity chair, shows Zions Bank president and CEO Scott Anderson part of Black Museum Utah’s digital interactive exhibit in Salt Lake City on Thursday. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

"Black people live in Utah. We've always lived here," said Nikki Walker, chamber board member. "We've been here and we're not going anywhere."

The launch itself illustrated Walker's point. It included a rendition of the Black National Anthem from Utah singer Freida Tela; the reading of an original poem by Michaëlle Martial, a Utah-based poet; and food and beverages from local Black businesses.

"Can I tell you their secret? / Our ancestors were not perfect, / But neither are we / If we continue to pretend / Or try to defend / Those denying history," Martial read from her poem, titled "American Dream."

Black Chamber President Sidni Shorter urged those attending the launch on Friday to take responsibility for telling their own stories, as well as the stories of previous generations.

"These stories must be told. We are not only responsible, but we are accountable for telling those stories," Shorter said. "We can continue to tell these stories in a manner that is living and breathing as we experience it, as we encounter it as we live it. ... We all make history. In this room, we're all making history."

Shawn Morris looks through Black Museum Utah’s digital interactive exhibit in Salt Lake City, on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023. The digital interactive exhibit will be open through the weekend in the old Zions Bank building at 102 S. Main St. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News