When Desmond Bertrand-Pitts, CEO of the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum in Houston, got an email from a colleague on Tuesday asking if he needed any help cleaning up, he thought there had been some kind of mistake.
Even when his colleague followed up with photos of the hateful message scrawled in black paint across the museum — a swastika accompanied by a poorly-spelled statement that appeared to read “Suck Democratic Party” — Bertrand-Pitts still “thought it was maybe a joke.” He couldn’t wrap his head around what happened until he saw the defaced building with his own two eyes.
“You never think that it’s going to happen to you, so it was quite emotional for me,” Bertrand-Pitts said.
The Buffalo Soldiers National Museum was founded by Bertrand-Pitts’ grandfather back in 2001 to honor the legacy of all African American U.S. soldiers. The Buffalo Soldiers nickname was first used by Native American tribes during the American Indian Wars to refer to the 10th Cavalry Regiment of the U.S. Army in 1866, one of the first all-black Army regiments, and was eventually used to describe all of the exclusively African American military regiments of that era.
The act of vandalism is suspected to have happened sometime between Monday and Tuesday, and is currently being investigated by the Houston Police Department’s hate crimes division. Tuesday, July 28 was National Buffalo Soldier Day.
Two men who heard about the incident from local news reports, Paul Aubrey and John Crowe, stopped by the museum Wednesday morning to volunteer their time to scrub the message off of the building.
“My motto is to try to do one good deed a day, and I was up drinking coffee when I saw it, and I said hey, there’s my one good deed right there,” said Aubrey.
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Crowe drove out to the museum at 3816 Caroline in Midtown all the way from Fulshear after he saw the news on TV this morning. “The only way to combat the bad and evil is to do the good, so that’s what we’re doing,” he said.
Bertrand-Pitts said this is the first act of hateful vandalism the museum has suffered since its creation nearly twenty years ago. The museum has been closed to the public since July 2 due to the surge of COVID-19 cases in Houston.
“At some point we have to realize that we’re all one race, the human race. There’s no room for hate. The museum exists here to show the city, the world [and] the nation the contributions African American men and women made in defense of this country. Everything we did was so that we can all have the same rights, that we can all live here in peace and harmony,” Bertrand-Pitts said.
“Stuff like this shouldn’t have to happen,” he continued. “We don’t bother anybody, we don’t make statements against anybody or anything like that, so it’s very disappointing.”