S. Epatha Merkerson shared her Black memorabilia collection during a special celebrity Antiques Roadshow on Monday. Merkerson played Lt. Anita Van Buren on Law & Order for 17 seasons and currently stars in Chicago Med. When she is not on set, she enjoys learning about her heritage and collecting Black memorabilia, which is both offensive and empowering.
“Even though the connotation of it was negative,” Merkerson said. “To me, that people who survived through all of that when these things were really prominent and not considered ‘collectibles,’ it speaks to their strength.” She added, “Bringing it to my house makes me uplifted.”
By reclaiming the memorabilia, Merkerson hopes to honor her heritage by changing its narrative. “When I initially saw some of this stuff, that was my idea,” she said. “That I’m going to just buy this up so white folks can’t buy it up and use it for that negative connotation. I’m going to lift it up. I’m gonna put it on my wall. I’m gonna situate it on my cabinet. So that anyone that comes in the house will see that this is a part of who I am.”
Viewers were touched by the reasoning behind Merkerson’s collection. One person tweeted, “Love love love that S. Epatha collects black memorabilia but love even more that it is getting featured, as it should. She takes those items that were offensive caricatures and gives them meaning beyond their original ugly humor.”
Antiques Roadshow airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on PBS.
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