Today, President Barack Obama arrived to the Anacostia Library on Good Hope Road with little fanfare.
According to the Washington Post, President Obama’s trip to the library was to announce a digital donation to access to over 10,000 popular titles on behalf of nine major publishing houses.
The President went on to say,
“For a lot of people, if they live in a home where they don’t have a lot of books, books can be expensive. Your parents may not be able to afford to buy a whole lot of books,” said Obama, sitting on a stool surrounded by 40 wide-eyed middle school students. “But if we are able to set up . . . a way in which people can pull all of these books down through the Internet, suddenly that can even things out between poor kids and rich kids — everybody has got the ability to learn.”
His visit was kept quiet for the most part. Some people walking by wondered what all the commotion was about, and were genuinely shocked to find out that the President was in the neighborhood! Residents say security vehicles began showing up around 9:30am. I arrived around 11:15am and his motorcade had already gone by at 11:00am. Onlookers lining Good Hope Road told me he entered through the back of the library, so they hadn’t seen him go inside the building.
There were surprisingly few onlookers. Residents from the apartment buildings across the street from the library made up the majority of the crowd of 40-50 people. Many were snapping pictures of the heavy security detail with their cell phones. They told me officials had been by the evening before securing the area for the President’s visit. One man told me, that residents who lived behind the library, where the President entered, had been questioned by the President’s security staff in preparation for his visit. There were quite a few neighbors chatting with one another but other than that, the entire scene was calm and quiet.
For the most part, the perimeter, remained surprisingly small. As onlookers, we were all standing just on the other side of the street from the library. The streets were only blocked off one block in any direction. That’s much closer than when he’s in the White House. One could hardly tell that the leader of our country was sitting inside the building across the street!
When I left at 11:50am, the President had not left the library yet. I hope for those people who were waiting see him, they were able to catch a glimpse of him. It’s an exciting to be so close to the President of the United States, and it’s even more exciting when he comes your neighborhood.
It is a word we use often. It is in our museum name: Anacostia Community Museum. So how does this new exhibit tie into what we do here in Anacostia?Bridging the Americas: Community and Belonging from Panama to Washington, D.C. presents stories from diverse DC area residents — many of Panamanian descent, some from the Panama Canal Zone — and asks you directly to think about your community and where you feel you belong.
One of the truest lines in the exhibition, in my humble curatorial opinion, is: “emotional connection is much more important than a legal one. Anyone who feels they belong probably does.” The underlying themes of this show are human diversity and connections. The spaces in which we reside are multiple… and connected!
The show holds a lot of information. When you walk through the exhibition, you are hearing DC stories. But they are also national stories and international stories. It is up indefinitely and I very much look forward to elaborating on themes, events, and stories through our public programming.
So what do we want people to take away from this exhibition?
Acknowledgement that people carry multiple identities always
Appreciation for diversity in Panama, the U.S. , and the DC metro area.
Understanding of important events that have created a profound relationship between the nations of Panama and the U.S.
Awareness of the Panama Canal Zone and the complexity of place based “Zonian” identity
Recognition that the Panamanian population in the D.C. area has a strong history and presence
Thoughtfulness about their own communities and reflective responses to the exhibition’s reflection questions on our public response wall.
Ruth and Novell bought the home of the owner of the former Columbia Iron Works on 22nd St SE near Fairlawn Avenue and the Anacostia River, a gorgeous Italianate Revival that sits at the end of a colorful one-way street filled with mixed heritage single-family homes in the Fairlawn neighborhood of Anacostia. This post features audio as well as still images. So please feel free to fix a cup of tea, standby to adjust your volume levels, and enjoy!
To see more of our archives collections featured in this video, please click on these links:
It was standing room early on Sunday April 12, 2015 for the opening of “Bridging the Americas: Community and Belonging from Panama to Washington, D.C.” The inaugural exhibit by Curator of Latino Studies Ariana Curtis, Ph.D. examines through images and narratives the various ways in which Zonians and Panamanians in the D.C. metropolitan area think about home and belonging in and in-between Panama and Washington, D.C. From passage during the California Gold Rush to the 100th anniversary of the Panama Canal in 2014, the United States and Panama have a long and intertwined history. The exhibition shows the formal ties between the two nations but focuses on the human stories and migrations that underscore the connection.
On Saturday, March 28th 2015, 30 panelists representing such organizations as Groundwork Anacostia River, The Anacostia Watershed Society, The District Department of the Environment, The Federal City Council, The University of the District of Columbia, The Louisville Waterfront Development, and LA’s The City Project gathered at Thurgood Marshall Academy for a day- long symposium to address the issues of: Education & Practice, Recreation & Environmentalism, Models in Grassroots Leadership, Collaboration Techniques, Waterfront Development, and Gentrification & New Urbanism.The gathering of environmentalists, community leaders, civic leaders, educators, scholars, and DC metro area residents was the culmination of one of the driving forces of the Urban Waterways Project whose primary goal is the exploration of the various relationships between urban rivers and the people living along their banks.
This emphasis on communities… people, proved to be a re-occurring theme throughout the day’s discussion. The very nature of water, a multi-dimensional element which touches past, present, and future, up-river, down-river, tourist and resident, Alexis Goggans of DC’s Office of Planning pointed out, requires us to reconsider how we envision the nature of cities. Such visions can and should be driven by the needs of those living in areas which are the most impacted by issues surrounding the redevelopment of urban waterways and their environs. Communities must appoint themselves as stewards, owning and taking the lead on issues in their own neighborhoods. The cultivation of community ownership best takes place in an atmosphere of trust in which engaged residents, educated in the issues which impact their lives, have a sense of place. Irma Munoz of Mujeres de la Tierra describes this as a sense of integrity and who you are. It is this sense of ownership and stewardship which allows communities to recognize and embrace their possible roles in the changes taking place along their waterfronts.
The power of residents’ ownership of such changes is reflected in the experiences of Louisville’s Waterfront Development Corporationwhich has recognized the importance of the inclusion of everyone from the beginning. “Build interest, engage the media … each step of the way must have things that appeal to the public… this is of interest to you.” The importance of such engagement was echoed by Baltimore Parks & People’s Lisa Schroeder who underscored the growing necessity of collaboration among the communities along urban rivers, as beleaguered cities have fewer resources to address all of the issues involved in creating and maintaining healthy, sustainable neighborhoods. If riverfronts are to be the centers of public and community life, stakeholders must take a multi-disciplinary approach, with the understanding that the traditional attitudes of “healing” communities from without doesn’t necessarily work in all situations.
If collaboration between stakeholders and the inclusion of all stakeholders is the key to success, both panelists and attendees understand the importance of paying attention to who is being served, and who has been denied access to urban waterfronts. The distribution of resources must reflect the communities sharing their lives along urban rivers. Polices are needed to provide a framework for change. Cultures of stewardship need to be created and maintained. The discussions which took part at the Urban Waterways Symposium should serve as the start of ongoing conversations and collaborations. The next practical step: getting people to the riverbanks.