This summer from July 5- July 29, Anacostia Community Museum held a series of free arts-integrated half-day programs for seven to ten year old children in the community. The students took part in daily yoga classes, science-based nature tours of the George Washington Carver Trail, art-making, swimming and field trips to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and the Smithsonian Natural History Museum’s IMAX theatre.
Summer Academy program ended for the season on July 29 with a series of poetic performances created by the students and special guests for their families and the community. Summer Academy students worked with educators Johari Griffith, Obika Griffith and Cheryl Rider to create a protest poem entitled Revolution inspired by the music of Beyoncé and fueled by the theme of protest featured in the exhibition the Twelve Years That Shook and Shaped Washington (1963-1975). The performance was choreographed by the Summer Academy’s artist-in-residence Erica Chamblee, actress, dancer and visual artist.
After the performance in the museum, the program concluded on the park grounds of the museum with special guests, Dr. Ray Charles Lockamy, of the Cherokee Nation, and his horse Wind Walker provided to the program by ACM Security Chief Lt. Marvin Dorsey. Dr. Lockamy taught the children about caring for horses, the particular importance of getting a good education and staying in school for African Americans. Students even got a chance to ride Wind Walker and for many of them this was their first time riding a horse. DC Retro Jumpers ended the day with free 60s-style double-dutch lessons for all the children and their families.
Parents were all pleased with the summer programs at the museum and replied the children really enjoyed the program. Thank You. A special thank you goes out to Sarah Turner for creating this video documentary of the Summer Academy Community Open House.
A major emerging immigrant center. One of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. A minority majority city. A city with a rapidly growing Latino community. It is one of the cities that will be highlighted in an upcoming exhibition, Gateways.
North Carolina led the nation in Latino population growth in the 1990s with a nearly 400% increase in its Latino population. Initial Latino immigrants and migrants were largely working class but those numbers have since shifted to include more professionals as the population of Latinos continues to grow.
To help the city deal with rapidly shifting demographics, the city of Charlotte created an Immigrant Integration Task Force in 2013. This group, appointed by the city, explores ways to make Charlotte more immigrant friendly and integrative. Though the task force and national news reports focus on the entrepreneurial integration of immigrants and economic impact, Gateways will begin conversations of community integration at more basic levels.
Housing. Education. Safety. Family.
Family units have been separated by policies such as Secure Streets and Secure Communities that provide overlapping authority between local law enforcement and federal immigration agencies. Between 2009 and 2016 more than 2.5 million people were deported. Earlier in 2016, raids by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) focused on Georgia, North Carolina and Texas.
What does this look like? What does this mean? How do we stop seeing policy and instead focus on people?
Words are powerful emotive tools.
In celebration of April as National Poetry Month, I share this work by Gateways collaborator Herrison Chicas, a UNC graduate who spoke at TedX Charlotte in 2014
Gateways, opening in December 2016, 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.
February 29, 2016 – Members of the Anacostia Community Museum Academy during a yoga demonstration at a Black History Month event at Savoy Elementary in SE Washington, DC.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution
The Anacostia Community Museum exhibit opening for Twelve Years that Shook and Shaped Washington was a bittersweet affair, held shortly after the passing of Head Curator Portia James in early December. Portia had worked at the Anacostia Community Museuem for over thirty years, guiding many exhibitions including this last.
This summer I was honored to host Sergio as my summer fellow. He was exceptionally organized, curious, and thoughtful. I am excited to witness his future accomplishments. Below is a small sample of what he worked on and worked through during his weeks as a Smithsonian Latino Museum Studies Program Fellow at the Anacostia Community Museum. – Ariana Curtis, curator
By Sergio M. González/ Summer 2015
This summer, my charge as a fellow with the Smithsonian’s Latino Museum Studies Program(LMSP) has been to assist in increasing the representation, documentation, and research of Latino art, culture, and history throughout the museum’s many units. My field placement at the Anacostia Community Museum (ACM) has offered me the opportunity to work in a museum in the process of redefining its own mission, as it expands its purview to include the representation of Latino communities. Working with Ariana Curtis, ACM’s first curator of Latino Studies, I’ve spent most of my practicum experience surveying the museum’s permanent collections in search of ties to Latin America and Latino communities specifically, but immigration more broadly.
I decided to commit some of my practicum experience to researching the object and rewriting the description, as it seemed to meet the criteria of being “current, compelling, and connected,” three C’s that help guide ACM’s mission.
I began researching and writing a new description to accompany the image of the boat on the Smithsonian’s website. I asked myself how, as a historian, I might convey the significance of this object and place it within a broader historical context. How, as a storyteller, might I engage my audience with vivid descriptions of the hazards that Cuban migrants confront on their ninety-mile voyage between Cuban and Floridian shores? My initial instincts for writing the description relied upon the writing of museum educator Larry Borowsky, who asks curators to pose three questions as they craft a narrative arc in their writing for museumgoers:
Does it create an air of suspense and/or tension?
Does it trace a journey through time and/or distance?
Does it encourage the reader to suspend disbelief?
In my first attempts to write what I considered to be an “effective” description, I hewed closely to my disciplinary training as a historian, and soon found myself writing more of a narrative than a collections description. My first draft of the collection description read more like an exhibition label than an object description that might accompany the boat in a collections search. The need for brevity within a collection description was a new concept for me – my dissertation-writing style would need to be scaled back. I wanted to include multiple political perspectives since this object interacts with contemporary political events. However, that muddied the delivery of pertinent historical facts that would place the boat in research context.
After meeting with Ariana and discussing the differences between a collections description and a museum tag, I decided to split the labor in half. First, I rewrote the description, focusing on conveying a clearer curatorial voice and sticking closer to the most important facts:
Some Cuban emigrants construct vessels like the one seen here from miscellaneous materials including discarded wood, sets of tires, and even converted taxis and trucks to travel the 90 miles from Cuba to the U.S. Known as balseros, rafters, or boatpeople, the largest single group of 125,000 Cubans departed from the port of Mariel to the U.S. in 1980. Between 1959 (Cuban Revolution) and the Mariel boatlift of 1980, 500,000 Cuban immigrants entered the United States.
Cubans have unique immigration laws, including the Cuban Adjustment Act. The 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act granted permanent resident status to any Cuban that had immigrated to the U.S. after January 1, 1959 and had lived in the U.S. for at least two years (reduced to one year in 1976). The 1995 revision of the Cuban Adjustment Act, popularly known as the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, allows Cuban migrants that reach U.S. land to stay, whereas those apprehended at sea are returned to Cuba.
According to their public website, the Miami-based non-profit organization Hermanos al Rescate (Brothers to the Rescue), founded in 1991, has rescued more than 4,200 Cuban refugees attempting to enter U.S.
Next, I turned to writing a museum tag under one hundred words that might accompany the Cuban refugee boat in an exhibit. I’ve imagined the boat as a part of a larger exhibit detailing Cuban immigration experiences to the United States in the twentieth century. As part of a full exhibit, much of the corroborating information not necessarily tied to this specific boat in the collections description above will be include in museum tags that would accompany other artifacts or images.
Between 1959 and 1994, more than 70,000 Cuban citizens fled their country for the United States in balsas (rafts) like the one seen here. Facing the 90 miles of treacherous water that separate Cuba and the Florida coast, balseros (rafters) constructed makeshift boats and homemade rafts out a number of materials, including scrap pieces of wood, discarded tires, and even converted taxis.
Sergio M. González is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a 2015 Smithsonian Latino Museum Studies Program Fellow.
Originally published in the summer of 2013, this first issue of the Urban Waterways newsletter introduces the reader to the various communities and waterways which make up our network from the perspectives of those who are playing a role in their revitalization. Urban Waterways Newsletter Issue 1
Issue 2 Water and Faith
This issue explores our obligation to the natural world through the lens of our spiritual beliefs. Do we have dominion, or are we meant to be stewards? How can faith communities who have had a role as the leading moral forces in our communities make their environmental messages blend seamlessly into their moral teachings? Are faith communities an under-tapped source of authority in the efforts to “green” our communities? FinalUW Newsletter
Issue 3 Arts Along the Waterfront
In the third issue of the Urban Waterways project newsletter, we explore the impact of the Arts on the spirit of neighborhoods along urban waterways. The Arts have long reflected artists’ visions of the communities in which they play a role. Inversely, these interpretations are informed by the world around them, and the natural world, in its various forms, can often be an important source of inspiration. What are the practical applications of the relationships between Art, artists, and the communities in which they live? Urban Waterways Newsletter Issue 3
Issue 4 Community Engagement Along Waterfronts
This issue explores the importance of community engagement in the creation of healthy, self-sustaining and equitable waterfront communities. Urban Waterways Newsletter Issue 4
On Saturday May 9, 2015, Andrew Lightman, Managing Editor of Capital Community News led a discussion of the socio-economic changes facing neighborhoods east of the River with Arrington Dixon, Chairman of the Anacostia Coordinating Council; Shareema Houston, Chair of Historic Anacostia Preservation Society; author and journalist, John Muller; Graylin W. Presbury, President of Fairlawn’s Citizens Association; the city’s new Deputy Mayor for Greater Economic Opportunity, Courtney Snowden and Christina Plerhoples Stacy of the Urban Institute.
The discussion began with various definitions of “gentrification” which many on the panel agreed is one of several terms used to describe the shift in a community’s population from a lower socio-economic group to a higher one that often, but not always, falls along racial lines. Panelist definitions also acknowledged the multiple layers that form a part of the process. Gentrifiers and community members are not always separated by race. Additionally, the built environment of various neighborhoods, varying rates of home ownership, and the rationale behind city policies all play a role in determining the “winners” and “losers” in community change.
The transformation of a community usually involves the conflicting visons of many. Historic Anacostia Preservation Society Chair Shareema Houston pointed out that visions of transformation can fall along racial and socio-economic lines that do not take into account the spirit of communities already present. Arrington Dixon asserted engaging the community is essential in providing residents with the tools and education needed to make decisions that will benefit them in the face of community transformation. Courtney Snowden echoed his assertion by pointing out, “Having $220,000.00 dangled in front of you can be a dangerous thing. Communities need to be educated on what they’re being asked to decide upon.”
Arrington Dixon’s emphasis on the creation of an educated, engaged community whose residents are ready to tap into their capacity, knowledge and experience to make the decisions that will best benefit them is only a part of an approach that can mitigate the possible negative effects of gentrification. If the community is to be at the table with developers and respected when decisions are made about its future, Houston stressed, city officials should help it achieve its goals. Such a role on the part of city government would call for a change in the tendency, according to Andrew Lightman, of the city to “give away” property to developers. Deputy Mayor Snowden saw room for a new approach. As a city, DC is ready to negotiate from a place of strength, and developers and communities need to be in accord. The next steps will involve galvanizing all the resources available in communities in order to be more innovative and not falling into the trap of not realizing some of the current problems stem from solutions from the past. Dixon was also optimistic, highlighting the importance of being on time. For him, the community is ready. The critical step is to harness its potential, utilizing its historic value and the Anacostia River and park as a source of pride and spirit which can be transformed into job opportunities which will, in turn, create more options and economic ladders, allowing residents to make decisions that will best impact them and the fabric of the larger community.
The audience was made up of a large contingent of ward 7 and 8 residents whose questions reflected a concern regarding the city government’s role in seemingly giving away not only property but also control over the futures of neighborhoods and an apparent lack of concern in regards to derelict city property. Other residents pointed to the Anacostia River as an important resource that can be used as an economic and unifying source for city residents. Finally, some residents were curious about any current or pending comprehensive plans for development in wards 7 and 8. Resident enquiries echoed many panelists concerns involving the need for more community engagement and stronger willingness on the part of city officials to advocate on behalf of residents in negotiations with developers.
In the third issue of the Urban Waterways project newsletter, we explore the impact of the Arts on the spirit of neighborhoods along urban waterways. The Arts have long reflected artists’ visions of the communities in which they play a role. Inversely, these interpretations are informed by the world around them, and the natural world, in its various forms, can often be an important source of inspiration. What are the practical applications of the relationships between Art, artists, and the communities in which they live?
In this issue, our collaborators in Anacostia, Baltimore, and Louisville discuss how Art can be used as a force of social, economic, and educational change. Local artists, Barbara Johnson, Bruce McNeil, and Terence Nicholson describe the role of the Anacostia River in their art and the role of Art in the communities surrounding the Anacostia. Kristen Faber, a Baltimore artist, explains efforts of The Charm City Circus, part of the social circus movement, to empower, educate, and heal neighborhoods in Baltimore. In Louisville, The Waterfront Development Corporation discusses how art has played a role in establishing the Louisville waterfront as a place accessible to all and is an integral part of a revitalized commercial and residential area which had greatly improved quality of life for many residents, while Theo Edmonds and Josh Miller of IDEAS 40203 show how the arts can be used as a force by which communities can build a workforce from within.
As a whole, the contributors to this issue demonstrate the power of Art to reflect not only an artist’s interpretation of the world but also its power to shape what the world can be.