“Traveling While Black” virtual reality exhibit opens in McLean


MCLEAN, Va. (WDVM) — A new virtual reality experience in McLean is screening Academy Award-winning director Roger Ross Williams’ film, “Traveling While Black,” in an entirely new way.

Viewers travel back in time to witness stories from those who experienced racism while traveling throughout the United States.

“It’s a continuation of the conversation of the topics raised in the movie “‘The Green Book,'” said Daniel Singh, executive director at the McLean Community Center. “It’s an experience about being black in the U.S, traveling while you’re black, and it makes a very strong connection between what people think was historic to current times.”

A set within the community center replicates Ben’s Chili Bowl, a landmark restaurant in D.C., where black Americans could stop, eat, and talk freely — and its’ where the majority of the film takes place.

“It’s a pioneer in our community. People forget and take it for granted that it’s always been there in D.C, but this is a good way to remember what their role was, historically and even currently.”

The movie features interviews that discuss what it was like to travel back in the 1950s. A woman shares her experience riding in a train car.

“You would get off the train and then you would relieve yourself outside, almost like you would if you were a dog,” the woman shares.

The film also tackles present-day issues, featuring an interview with Tamir Rice’s mother. Rice speaks about the day her son was killed by police while carrying a replica toy gun.

“This film humanizes it. Now you have a face, now you have a community, now you have people who are affected by situations, by policies,” said Singh. “People are often worried about technology, and feel that technology removes you from an experience, but this shows you that it’s the opposite…It brings you into the experience.”

“Traveling While Black” will run at the McLean Community Center until Feb. 14, 2022. It’s free to view the film, but you have to make an appointment online to schedule a viewing.

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