EXPOSITION PARK — A number of activists gathered outside the California Science Center March 24 to hold a demonstration during the opening of “King Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh,” which is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb.
Activists milled around the entrance of the Science Center and passed out gold flyers to visitors that depicted pictures of dark-skinned African kings and queens. The flyer also included a tersely worded letter to American Express, one of the major sponsors of the exhibit, regarding the lack of acknowledgement by the corporation and other participating sponsors that King Tutankhamen and Queen Nefertiti were black Africans.
According to attorney and historian LeGrand Clegg, who helped organize the demonstration, American Express quietly pulled out as a sponsor on the opening day of the exhibit.
The King Tut exhibit, on tour for the third time in Los Angeles, was organized by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities and the management company IMG. It features more than 150 artifacts and objects, many that have left Egypt for the first time.
The exhibition will be on display in 10 cities internationally over the course of seven years, and then the artifacts will go to the still-under-construction Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo, where they will remain permanently.
Local black historians, however, are incensed over the fact that the king’s racial origins are being buried or ignored by the exhibit’s organizers and sponsors.
“I have seen various advertisements relating to the opening of this exhibit and none of them reveal the fact that the acclaimed pharaoh was a black African,” Clegg said.
“Since 1976, the artifacts of King Tutankhamen have toured the United States twice,” Clegg added. “Each time the sponsors have been careful to directly or indirectly deny the fact that the pharaoh was a black African. In 1976, the exhibit’s catalog cautioned its readers that any dark depiction of the king had ‘no ethnic significance.’”
Clegg said the “whitewashing” of the pharaoh extends back decades.
“In 2005, the exhibit’s catalog depicted the pharoah as white, based on the artistic whims of Elisabeth Daynes, the same sculptress responsible for the current distortion of the image of Queen Nefertiti,” Clegg said, adding that there is irrefutable scientific proof that King Tut was black.
“In January 2012, DNA Tribes Digest published the results of their examination of the mummies of King Tut, his mother, father, paternal grandparents and paternal great-grandparents,” Clegg said. “The findings indicated that, when compared to various populations around the world today, these mummies have an overwhelming genetic relationship to the people of Southern Africa, the African Great Lakes and Tropical West Africa.
“In the case of King Tut, 96 percent of his genetic markers match current populations of Sub-Saharan Africa; while 82 percent of the genetic markers of his mother, Queen Nefertiti, and 92 percent of his father, Akhenaten, match the same populations.”
David Horne, a professor of Pan African Studies at Cal State Northridge who also participated in the demonstration, pointed out that, “They have renditions of Queen Nefertiti and King Tut in the exhibit that depict them as Caucasoid or white-looking.”
Horne said he was particularly disturbed that the true African origins of Queen Nefertiti and King Tutankhamen are not part of the public school curriculum.
“You don’t want to steal people’s history because the young people need to have role models of great contributions made by people who look like them,” Horne said. “When you take that away, you tell them that people who look like them have been nothing but participants in history.”
Pausing, he added: “We have to make sure that the academic world cannot put out inaccurate information without being criticized for it.”
Patrice Simmons, owner of the Sun Goddess Beauty Center who arrived at the demonstration dressed as Queen Nefertiti, said she began dressing up as the African queen after she saw a segment on NBC news that depicted a bust of Nefertiti as a white woman.
“I said no. I have visited the Cairo museum twice and you can clearly see that the people of that time were Nubian black Africans. They all had broad noses,” Simmons said.
Demonstrator David Turner, who waved a sign that read “King Tut was a Black African,’’ said, “I want to help preserve our black history for our children. We are protecting our black heritage from the attempted whitewash by the California Science Center.”
Turner said that the demonstrations will be ongoing.
“We plan to boycott the exhibit’s sponsors — including American Express, Toyota, Princess Cruises and Federal Express,” he said. “We are also planning to bring busloads of school children to the Science Center to join in the demonstration because this is part of their history. We are fed up.”
Compton activist Mollie Bell, who also was at the demonstration, said; “We will continue to pass out powerful and enlightening information to the public. King Tut was a black African and that is what needs to be told to the world.’”
Shell Omega, senior vice president of communications at the California Science Center, said of the demonstrators, ‘’This is not the same King Tut exhibit that sparked protests years ago. We welcome the demonstrator’s presence as well as the information they are providing.”
Clegg said that local historians and activists will be holding ongoing demonstrations in front of the Science Center several times during the week and on Saturdays.
“The Western academic, scientific and media establishments have suppressed, distorted and ignored the glorious history of black people,’’ Clegg said. “White scholars and academics won’t come out and say that King Tut or the ancient Egyptians were black Africans, but if you do any studies on King Tut and Queen Nefertiti, you know that they were black people.’’