Welcome to the Anacostia Community Museum Community Documentation Initiative

The Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum’s Community Documentation Initiative (CDI) is an ongoing effort to document and make accessible to the public a wide range of original material on the social, cultural, economic and contemporary community life of urban neighborhoods. While we maintain an emphasis on the Washington, DC metropolitan area, our research and collecting activities include urban communities across the United States and around the world. The Community Documentation Initiative brings the resources of the museum—particularly research materials and archival/object collections—directly to constituents through public programs, gallery exhibitions, digital content, and special programs, as well as builds and enhances interactive dialogue with museum audiences. Using these research and collections materials, the CDI builds collaborative, community-based networks of neighborhood organizations, cultural institutions, and individuals; and works with our audiences to better understand the ways that the museum can help inform social causes of great contemporary concern.

Happy Birthday, Celia Cruz!

Born Úrsula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso, the Queen of Salsa is better known as Celia Cruz.

The importance and significance of this music legend cannot be understated. She is represented all over the Smithsonian including the National Museum of American History  , National Museum of African American History and Culture, National Postal Museum , Smithsonian Folkways, and the National Portrait Gallery.

Every museum has a unique mission and thus interpretation of history and culture. The Anacostia Community Museum’s mission focuses on urban history and culture. The next exhibition to open will be Gateways.

Gateways  explores the triumphs and struggles of Latino migrants and immigrants in four urban destinations: Washington, D.C., Baltimore, MD, Raleigh-Durham, NC and Charlotte, NC

Visitors to the upcoming Gateways exhibition will see an urban interpretation of the icon.  M. Tony Peralta, a child of Dominican immigrants, was born and raised in the uptown neighborhood of Washington Heights, NY.  Being raised in New York during the hip-hop generation greatly influenced him and his work.

What does Celia Cruz have to do with Gateways?

The ubiquity of Dominican salons might surprise you. Indeed you can find them all over the U.S, including the Gateways metro areas of Washington DC, Baltimore, MD, Raleigh-Durham, NC and Charlotte, NC. Rolos are iconic in Dominican salons and Celia Cruz is everyday music. Celia Cruz is a music icon and rolos are an everyday item.  Peralta’s work blurs the lines of the iconic and the everyday giving us:


Celia con Rolos, 2015 M. Tony Peralta NY, New York


The exhibition will boast the 37″ x 42″ canvas rather than this poster version. But enjoy this preview! You can hear Tony talk about this piece and his work when Gateways opens December 5th.

Collections Highlight: Joy McLean Bosfield Papers


A page from Scrapbook II, 1945-1985. Joy McLean Bosfield Papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Joy McLean Bosfield.

Joy McLean Bosfield (1924-1991) was a singer, musical director, actress, and musical instructor who performed throughout the United States, Europe, and the Middle East from the 1940s to the 1980s.  Her papers in the Anacostia Community Museum Archives, documents Ms. McLean Bosfield’s professional career through photographs, correspondence, programs, and scrapbooks.

Joy was born on January 27, 1924 to John and Florence Mearimore.  Her mother, an immigrant from Demerara, Guiana (now part of Guyana), married McLean’s father, a prominent New York businessman, in March of 1923 in New Jersey.  Joy lived in Paramus, New Jersey until 1940, when she graduated from Ridgewood High School.  During that same year Bosfield was accepted to the prestigious Hunter College, in New York.

On February 26, 1945, McLean Bosfield performed her first recital at St. Martin’s Little Theatre. Three years later in 1948, McLean married Charles McLean, who was originally from British Guyana, and the couple moved to England.  She began performing in Europe in the early 1950s, singing soprano leads for productions for the BBC, British churches, and English musical plays. While in London, an American production of Porgy and Bess used her talents during their international tours as a rehearsal accompanist, vocal role coach, and assistant to the musical director.

After returning to the United States in the mid-1950s, Bosfield continue her career as a concert artist. In 1963 she moved to Washington, DC, where she became musical director of John Wesley AME Zion Church. She also worked for the Frederick Wilkerson Studio of Voice as a vocal coach, and managed the studio after the death of Wilkerson until the 1980s.

Retiring and moving to Chapala, Mexico in 1985, Bosfield participated in community theater productions and other community functions there, until her death on April 4, 1999.

Do you want to learn more about Joy McLean Bosfield’s long and distinguished career?  You can by helping transcribe her two fragile scrapbooks in the Smithsonian Transcription Center.

Joy McLean Bosfield Scrapbook I, 1923-1964

Joy McLean Bosfield Scrapbook II, 1945-1985


The Miss Senior DC 2016 Pageant

We had the pleasure of attending the Ms. Senior DC pageant earlier this summer.  The pageant featured several of Ward 7 & 8 neighbors, including Miss Congress Heights, Elvera Patrick, who received the title of Miss Congeniality for her efforts with this pageant. Below we present a highlight reel of some of our favorite moments.


New Acquisition! Guadalupe has a gun

The following post is by Elena C. Muñoz, research/curatorial assistant for the Gateways exhibition. 

Happy Latinx Heritage Month! 


When we met with Rosalia Torres-Weiner  in March of 2016, she was one of the artists-in-residence at Latin American Contemporary Art Projects (LaCa) in Charlotte. Wearing colorful and elaborately decorated cowboy boots, she greeted us with a big smile and hugs before sitting us down in her brightly decorated studio-space. Her space at LaCa was decorated with large paper flowers, Calaveras, panels from her children’s story “the Magic Kite” which had just been turned into a play by the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, and of course, her vibrant, patterned paintings.

High on the front wall of her studio, she had painted, “I AM AN ARTIVIST AND I BELIEVE IN ACTIVISM THROUGH MY ART.”

Rosalie Torres-Weiner's Charlotte, NC studio in March 2016

Rosalie Torres-Weiner’s Charlotte, NC studio in March 2016

While sitting and chatting, Torres-Weiner’s passion for social justice and making the invisibles visible, particularly children, is evident. Throughout our visit, her “artivism” and community engagement manifested itself through our conversation, and of course through the paintings that were displayed throughout the studio.

Many of Torres-Weiner’s pieces deal with the complexities of the United States immigration system as well as the injustices and dangers immigrants often face. Some of her work sheds subtle light on the plight of immigrants in the United States, but some of her pieces are far more overt. One piece in particular that is direct in its handling of the hazards of immigration and crossing the southern U.S. border is Madre Protectora.


Madre Protectora 

 This piece is a reimagining of the patroness of Mexico, the Virgin of Guadalupe. The standard representation of the Virgin of Guadalupe is of a young, brown-skinned woman, hands clasped in prayer and eyes cast downward. Typically she is shown standing atop a crescent moon held by a cherub and encircled by a golden mandala.Torres-Weiner’s version of the Virgin has morphed from a static, passive depiction of holy femininity into one of vigilant agency.

Madre Protectora by Rosalia Torres-Weiner. Collection of the Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution

Madre Protectora by Rosalia Torres-Weiner. Collection of the Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution

Instead of being clasped in prayer, her hands clutch a three-dimensional AK-47 constructed of wood, one finger on the trigger. A small, golden pocket watch dangles from her trigger finger, which in Torres-Weiner’s words, “indicates that over time, this situation will change”. Though her dark eyes are still averted from the viewer’s gaze, they are raised and alert, searching for any sign of danger.

The crescent moon and cherub are replaced by a blood red banner proclaiming her new moniker of “Madre Protectora”. Her golden mandala is supplanted by pink hibiscus flowers and stylized white dots, which according to the artist are, “one thousand points of loss. Each dot representing a life lost on the border.” The painting is recessed within a blood red wooden frame, with four lines of plastic barbed wire encasing the bottom of the piece, representative of the U.S.-Mexico border. Behind the wire are three red figures: the Virgin Mary, Jesus, and a pope.

I have always been obsessed with the devotion to, and various depictions of the Virgin Mary, particularly in Latin America and by Latino artists. The fact that a woman, (and oftentimes a non-white woman) was such a potent instrument of conversion during colonization, and can still command such power, zeal, and national pride is incredible to me. That being said, when we walked in to Torres-Weiner’s studio, I was immediately drawn to this armed Virgin. Madre Protectora follows a tradition of Mexican-American and Chican@ artists not only depicting the Virgin of Guadalupe, but of depicting her as one of active, maternal protection, central to the immigration experience.

Like many Catholic saints, the Virgin of Guadalupe is regularly prayed to for help and protection. Here, Torres-Weiner has imbued her with a hyper-vigilance that speaks to the extreme anxiety and desperation that often comes with the experience of crossing the border. Torres-Weiner is confronting the life-threatening circumstances that people often face when they come to the United States, whether it’s during the journey, or once they reach their destination.

The artist writes, “The Guadalupe, portrayed as a young millennial is armed with an AK-47 to show that faith can be as strong as the challenges that we face (deportations, narco-terrorism, economic disparity).”


Gateways opens to the public on December 5, 2016.  The exhibition explores the triumphs and struggles of Latino migrants and immigrants in four urban destinations: Washington, D.C., Baltimore, MD, Raleigh-Durham, NC and Charlotte, NC

Elena C. MunozElena Muñoz received her MA in Art History from Rutgers University, and her BA in Art History from Fordham University. Her primary research interest is teasing out the African influences in Latin American
and Latino art. She is also fascinated with the evolution and uses of Marian imagery in the Americas. In 2014, she was a recipient of the Smithsonian’s Latino Museum Studies fellowship, working with the Teodoro Vidal Collection at the Lunder Center and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Currently she is a research assistant at the Anacostia Community Museum, working on the upcoming exhibition Gateways, which examines Latino im/migration in the D.C. Metro Area, Baltimore, the Raleigh-Durham region of North Carolina, and Charlotte, North Carolina.

Rosalia y Madre Protectora

Rosalia Torres-Weiner with Madre Protectora

Rosalia Torres-Weiner is a self-taught artist-activist who has lived and worked in Charlotte since 1992. Born in Mexico City, Mexico, she came to the United States in 1985. After working in the hospitality industry, she gradually turned to a career as an artist. She initially worked as a flight attendant; after painting murals in her children’s rooms, her neighbors commissioned her to paint murals in their homes. She launched her company Home Art Designs in 2001, painting murals in residential as well as commercial properties. In 2010, she pivoted and began to focus primarily on using her art as activism for the Latino community. She started the Papalote Project, (the Kite Project) using art as therapy for local children who were suffering from the loss of a parent due to deportation. She continues to produce socially conscious and community-engaging work from her studios in Charlotte, NC.

Sustainable Community Preservation Award – winner!

Happy Latinx Heritage Month!

Only July 8th I had the pleasure and great honor to attend the Afro-Latino Festival of New York where I received an award for Sustainable Community Preservation from the organizing committee.

AfroLatinoFest Ariana

Dr. Ariana A. Curtis with her beautiful award

Friday was a full day. It included Afrolatin@Crowd Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, five panels, a keynote luncheon, awards presentation, an exclusive film screening screening, a cocktail reception, and musical performances at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

We gathered on that hot summer day under the heaviness of the recent killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile just days before. The mood was at once somber, buoyant, aware, powerful, and gentle. For many of us, that was the collective safe space we needed to emote, process, heal, and plan.

I served on a panel, Afrolatin@S, ¡Presente!: Representation And Cultural Heritage where I discussed the work I do at the Anacostia Community Museum, but really, espoused some of my philosophy about Afro-Latinx representation and cultural heritage more broadly.  The full day’s recordings are available via the Schomburg’s livestream site.

talking to Geco Jones

Dr. Curtis with panel moderator DJ Geko Jones Photo credit: Bob Gore


talking sphere

Dr. Ariana A. Curtis mid explanation at AfroLatino Talks 2016 Photo credit: Bob Gore










I didn’t have notes so I cannot summarize my contributions to the hour-long panel, but I will share a small story that I told:

When I first started at the Smithsonian people would introduce me as a curator of Afro Latino studies.  I was quick to correct them. I am proud to be Afro Latina but I am a curator for Latino Studies. Latino studies includes Afro-Latinos.  We do not always need to be separate.

The responsibility for knowing our history and culture should not be pushed off to a few.  And, we cannot claim Latin America or the U.S. as spaces of mixedness, as spaces with African roots, then deny our contemporary existence and inclusion of Afro Latinos within larger contexts.

My contributions to the Smithsonian, or to anywhere I am, do not begin and end with my physical Blackness and my value to this world does not lie exclusively within the nexus of Blackness and Latinidad.  I am interested in representing community stories within American stories. Latino history and culture include Afro-Latino stories. Plural. We are not all the same. Our diversity matters.

The award ceremony and performances were Friday evening, also at the Schomburg, following a reception. As you can see from the image below, I was in the company of some heavy hitters. When I emailed people after the event I confessed: I am elated to share any honor with (fellow Panamanian) Danilo Perez.

I kept my acceptance speech very short. I will admit, I was overcome with emotion in a way I did not expect and I feared my voice would betray me. I am not generally a crier but looking out at all of the faces, including my parents and my sister, I teared up!

The gist of it was:

I know that I work for and represent an institution that has historically excluded us.  But I also know how powerful it has been for people to see someone that looks like ME doing Latino-centered work in this institution.  The Smithsonian is responsible for telling the American story and I am responsible for making sure we are included. When I think about the people I want to be proudest of what I do, moved by this work, it is people who feel I am telling their story.  Our story.

I have had some wonderful days in my personal and professional life, but receiving this honor is among the top.

afroLatinoFest awardees

2016 Honorees receiving awards from Amilcar Priestley: Danilo Perez: Grammy Award Winning Latin Jazz Pianist/Composer Dr. Ariana Curtis : Curator, Latino Studies, Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum Ayesha Schomburg: Board Member, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture & Counsel NYC City Council Moises Medrano (not pictured): Director of Populations, Ministry of Culture, Colombia Photo Credit: Bob Gore


Thank you so much to everyone at AfroLatino Festival for considering me, with a special shout out to (fellow Panamanian) Amilcar Priestley.

After the ceremony, I was able to sit back with family and friends and enjoy the rest of the night and the weekend festivities. For those that missed out, see you next year!


Panamanian group Afrodisíaco performing at the Schomburg Center Photo credit: Bob Gore

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