Blended Families – Gateways and Mother’s Day

Today is Mother’s Day in Panama!

Most people know that I am Panamanian. Orgullosamente! Only some people know, however, that my father is Panamanian and my mother is African-American. Interestingly, this did not factor into Gateways until a meeting with Charlotte based artist Nico Amortegui.

Nico, born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia, has lived and worked in the United States since the late 1990s. He is quick to say, one of the main reasons he is here and that he lives in Charlotte is his wife and two daughters.

Early in our exhibition stages when I was deciding what the salient themes were and how they would be represented, I met with Nico in his studio.  We discussed some of his recent work, the growing population of Latinx in Charlotte, Latin American vs Latinx, and the restrictive focus on Latin Americans/Latinxs. THAT was the inspiration for his piece in GatewaysHe wanted to create a piece that focused on Latinxs, but one that included space for his wife – who is not Latina- and his children.

An Immigrant Connection to a Country of Immigrants Nico Amortegui, 2016 Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution

An Immigrant Connection to a Country of Immigrants
Nico Amortegui, 2016
Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution

 

When his work was in process I referred to it as “blended families” but Nico’s original piece created for the Gateways exhibition is called An Immigrant Connection to a Country of Immigrants.   In his words,

It is based on the fact that when we talk about Latinos we blur out the Americans (United States) that have embrace the Latino culture and have made it part of their life.

This beautiful work is in the “Making Home, Constructing Communities” section of the exhibition, but the message resonates throughout the whole exhibition. When we fight for social justice and civil rights, when we build networks, when we celebrate our communities we do not do this alone. It is never ONLY the Latinx community and it is never only FOR Latinx communities.

This is the story of millions of families in the United States, including mine. So in the spirit of this piece, I say Happy Panamanian Mother’s Day to my mom who has embraced the culture and made it part of our lives. Although my mother is African-American, she has a big Panamanian family is mother to Panamanian children so …

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little me sleeping on my mother in New York

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my mom and me at the Bridging the Americas Opening, 2015

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la familia en Panama, 2009

 

 

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY, MOM!!! 

 

Gateways is open! Through the lenses of social justice, constructing communities, and festivals as community empowerment, the exhibition explores the triumphs and struggles of Latinx migrants and immigrants in four urban destinations: Washington, D.C., Baltimore, MD, Raleigh-Durham, NC and 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!

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

Artist Theaster Gates at the Hirshhorn Museum

Internationally recognized artist Theaster Gates, whose work embraces the plastic arts, performance, archives and the built environment, was in town for a presentation at the Hirshhorn Museum in honor of the opening of the new Museum of African American History and Culture.

September 14, 2016 - Artist Theaster Gates and his associates the Black Monks of Mississippi performed at the Hirshhorn Museum in advance of Gates' presentation at the museum later that night in honor of the opening of the new Museum of African American History and Culture. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Artist Theaster Gates performs at the Hirshhorn Museum for ArtLab students September 14, 2016.

He kindly agreed to a performance for the Hirshhorn’s ArtLab students and featuring his colleagues the Black Monks of Mississippi and members of the Howard University track team.  The performance was entirely improvised in the moment.

After the performance Gates and his colleagues convened in the ArtLab to discuss creativity, collegiality and process.  Members of the Anacostia Community Museum’s Youth Advisory Board were on hand to experience this opportunity to be inspired by a living artist working on creative placemaking in the same community in which he grew up and lives today.

September 14, 2016 - A Howard University track athlete is part of the performance of artist Theaster Gates and his associates the Black Monks of Mississippi who presented at the Hirshhorn Museum in advance of Gates' presentation at the museum later that night in honor of the opening of the new Museum of African American History and Culture. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

A Howard University track athlete is part of the performance of artist Theaster Gates and his associates the Black Monks of Mississippi who presented at the Hirshhorn Museum in advance of Gates’ presentation at the museum later that night in honor of the opening of the new Museum of African American History and Culture.

September 14, 2016 - Hirshhorn Museum Museum and Sculpture Garden Director Melissa Chiu (center) chats with Anacostia Community Museum Board Chair Bennie Johnson and Anacostia Community Museum Director Lori Yarrish prior to a presentation by the artist Theaster Gates. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Hirshhorn Museum Museum and Sculpture Garden Director Melissa Chiu (center) chats with Anacostia Community Museum Board Chair Bennie Johnson left, and Anacostia Community Museum Director Lori Parrish, right, prior to a presentation by the artist Theaster Gates.

September 14, 2016 - Local students listen to artist Theaster Gates talk about his work. He and his associates the Black Monks of Mississippi performed at the Hirshhorn Museum in advance of Gates' presentation at the museum later that night in honor of the opening of the new Museum of African American History and Culture. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Local students listen to artist Theaster Gates talk about his work. 

September 14, 2016 - Artist Theaster Gates associates the Black Monks of Mississippi performed at the Hirshhorn Museum in advance of Gates' presentation at the museum later that night in honor of the opening of the new Museum of African American History and Culture. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Theaster Gates’ associates, the Black Monks of Mississippi, speak before the students of the Hirshhorn Museum’s ArtLab.

September 14, 2016 - A student from Thurgood Marshall Academy in southeast Washington shows her artwork to artist Theaster Gates. He and his associates the Black Monks of Mississippi performed at the Hirshhorn Museum in advance of Gates' presentation at the museum later that night in honor of the opening of the new Museum of African American History and Culture. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

A student from Thurgood Marshall Academy in southeast Washington shows her artwork to artist Theaster Gates.

Enter the post Panamax World

Today [June 26, 2016] marks a historic moment for Panama, for our hemisphere and the world.”

– Juan Carlos Varela, President of Panama

In this age of increased border policing and nationalism, nothing reminds us of global connectedness like oceans.  Also, I will take all opportunities to write about Panama.

Author disclaimer: I love Panama! My father is from there. My family lives there. I did my dissertation fieldwork there. The Smithsonian has a Tropical Research Institute there (STRI). It is constantly among the happiest countries in the world and frankly, it is beautiful!

The defining thing [about Panamanian identity] I would say is the Panama Canal … what else … that is all … we can’t even go any further!” – DC resident from Panama

In August 1914, the Panama Canal opened, revolutionizing global sea traffic. The Canal created a “path between the seas,” joining the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Ships no longer had to travel all the way around South America. They could now pass through the 50 mile long Canal. Ships traveling the canal connect 160 countries and reach about 1,700 ports worldwide. To date, more than one million ships have passed through the Canal.

The politics and culture of the Panama Canal is a central element — literally and figuratively — of Panama’s national identity and on December 31, 1999 the U.S., who operated the Canal since 1914, turned over full control of the Panama Canal to Panama.

The last time I visited Panama was a research trip 2014 with ACM photographer Susana Raab to document the 100th anniversary of the Canal. During that trip, we visited the Canal expansion project on the Atlantic coast

August 2014 view of the Panama Canal expansion near the Locks of Gatun. These photographs were made for the upcoming Bridging the Americas exhibit at the Anacostia Community Museum. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

August 2014 view of the Panama Canal expansion near the Gatun Locks.  Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution. Photograph by Susana Raab

We also took a partial transit through the Panama Canal. It is a marvel to watch ships being raised and lowered to pass through the locks system of the Canal.

 

Susana and me transiting the Panama Canal in August 2014 , documenting 100 years of the Panama Canal

Selfie! Susana (with camera) and me transiting the Panama Canal in August 2014

 

 

On June 26, 2016 , over a hundred years after the Panama Canal opened, the new locks at the Panama Canal were inaugurated. We are now living in a Post-Panamax or NeoPanamax maritime era! The expansion brought two new sets of locks, Cocolí on the Pacific coast near Panama City and Agua Clara on the Atlantic coast at Colon.

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Photograph by Moises Castillo from Associated Press

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Photograph by Moises Castillo from Associated Press

Photograph by Oscar Rivera EPA

Photograph by Oscar Rivera EPA

The size of the original canal made it difficult for high-volume Asian shipments to get to the East Coast of the U.S.  Post-Panamax ships can reach 1,200 feet long — more than three football fields — and are up to 160 feet wide. The expansion doubles the Canal’s capacity.

So while this feat is certainly worth celebrating, it has global ramification and human costs especially in the U.S.. Canal expansion has meant that ports like Savannah, New York, New Jersey, and Houston among others have invested billions in order to accommodate the larger ships that will pass through the new Canal.  Larger ships mean updating ports, and consequently increased road traffic, as more trucks will be needed to transport the increased number of goods.  In December of 2014, the Melissa Harris Perry Show discussed some of the environmental concerns of Canal Expansion in New Jersey.

 

In the coming month, years, and centuries we will all be witness to the Panama Canal’s continued influence on global trade for the U.S. and the world.

August 2014 - Boats wait at the opening of the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal. These photographs were taken for the Bridging the Americas exhibit at the Anacostia Community Museum. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

August 2014 – Boats waiting on the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal.  Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution. Photograph by 
Susana Raab

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You can learn more about the Washington D.C.’s connection to Panama, the U.S. presence in Panama, and the Panama Canal in the exhibition Bridging the Americas: Community and Belonging from Panama to Washington DC in the Anacostia Community Museum Program Room. The exhibition is up indefinitely.

Annual Martin Luther King Jr Celebration Event with keynote speaker Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad

Friday January 15 saw the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s life and legacy, an annual program hosted by the Anacostia Community Museum, at the Baird auditorium in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.  The keynote address by Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York, and an on-stage discussion on the theme of “Looking Back, Moving Forward” with moderator Richard Reyes-Gavilan, executive director of the D.C. Public Library system were well attended.

January 15, 2016 - Smithsonian Secretary David J. Skorton, Anacostia Community Museum Director Camille Akeju, Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Richard Reyes-Gavilan, and Paul Perry pose for a photograph prior to the commencement of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration event. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 – Smithsonian Secretary David J. Skorton, Anacostia Community Museum Director Camille Akeju, Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Richard Reyes-Gavilan, and Paul Perry pose for a photograph prior to the commencement of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration event. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 - Attendees gather for the 2016 Anacostia Community Museum 2016 Martin Luther King Jr. Anniversary Celebration. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 – Attendees gather for the 2016 Anacostia Community Museum 2016 Martin Luther King Jr. Anniversary Celebration. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 - Smithsonian Institution Secretary David Skorton makes remarks at the 2016 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration hosted by the Anacostia Community Museum. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 – Smithsonian Institution Secretary David Skorton makes remarks at the 2016 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration hosted by the Anacostia Community Museum. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 - Members of the Anacostia Museum Youth Advisory Board and Museum Academy present themselves before the audience at the Anacostia Community Museum 2016 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration event. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 – Members of the Anacostia Museum Youth Advisory Board and Museum Academy present themselves before the audience at the Anacostia Community Museum 2016 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration event. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 - Deputy DC Mayor for greater economic opportunity Courtney Snowden made remarks at the 2016 Martin Luther King Jr Celebration hosted by the Anacostia Community Museum. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 – Deputy DC Mayor for greater economic opportunity Courtney Snowden made remarks at the 2016 Martin Luther King Jr Celebration hosted by the Anacostia Community Museum. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 - Crazee Praize Nation performed for the Anacostia Community Museum 2016 Martin Luther King Jr Celebration event.Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 – Crazee Praize Nation performed for the Anacostia Community Museum 2016 Martin Luther King Jr Celebration event.Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 - Crazee Praize Nation performed for the Anacostia Community Museum 2016 Martin Luther King Jr Celebration event.Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 – Crazee Praize Nation performed for the Anacostia Community Museum 2016 Martin Luther King Jr Celebration event.Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 - Crazee Praize Nation performed for the Anacostia Community Museum 2016 Martin Luther King Jr Celebration event.Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 – Crazee Praize Nation performed for the Anacostia Community Museum 2016 Martin Luther King Jr Celebration event.Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 - Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad gave the keynote address for the Anacostia Community Museum 2016 Martin Luther King Jr Celebration event. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 – Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad gave the keynote address for the Anacostia Community Museum 2016 Martin Luther King Jr Celebration event. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 - Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad and DC Public LIbrary Executive Director Richard Reyes-Gavilan answered questions from the audience at the 2016 Martin Luther King Jr Celebration event. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 – Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad and DC Public LIbrary Executive Director Richard Reyes-Gavilan answered questions from the audience at the 2016 Martin Luther King Jr Celebration event. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 - Members of the audience ask questions during the 2016 Anacostia Community Museum Martin Luther King Jr Celebration event.Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 – Members of the audience ask questions during the 2016 Anacostia Community Museum Martin Luther King Jr Celebration event.Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 - Crazee Praize Nation performed for the Anacostia Community Museum 2016 Martin Luther King Jr Celebration event.Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 – Crazee Praize Nation performed for the Anacostia Community Museum 2016 Martin Luther King Jr Celebration event.Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Anacostia Community Museum Urban Waterways Citizen Scientist Program Honored by State Farm’s Youth Advisory Board

October 31, 2015- Graduated student Cristal Sandoval assists new student Iyona Whitehead while Howard University Chemistry Professor Vernon Morris and State Farm Representative Angela Rosser watch the test they students are conducting.  The group were on an outing to a tributary of the Anacostia Watershed near Kennilworth Park in support of the Anacostia Community Museum's Citizen Scientist Program which received support from State Farm. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- Graduated student Cristal Sandoval assists new student Iyona Whitehead while Howard University Chemistry Professor Vernon Morris and State Farm Representative Angela Rosser watch the test they students are conducting. The group were on an outing to a tributary of the Anacostia Watershed near Kennilworth Park in support of the Anacostia Community Museum’s Citizen Scientist Program which received support from State Farm.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

It was a wonderful Fall afternoon near Kennilworth Park in Southeast Washington when a bus carrying Anacostia Community Museum Citizen Scientists, representatives from State Farm Insurance, and local academics from the University of DC and Howard University arrived to monitor the water quality of the Anacostia watershed. After the data collection, the team reconnoitered back at the Anacostia Community Museum’s program room for a presentation and luncheon honoring the State Farm Youth Advisory Board‘s funding of the Urban Waterways Citizen Scientist Program in 2016.

The State Farm Youth Advisory Board is a unique charitable giving board.  It is comprised of thirty students, ages 17-20, from across the United States and Canada. They are charged with helping State Farm design and implement a $5 million-a-year signature service-learning initiative to address issues important to State Farm and communities across the United States. The Anacostia Community Museum is grateful to State Farm and their Youth Advisory Board for making the Urban Waterways Citizen Scientist Program possible.

 

 

October 31, 2015- Students M'Kya Denny and Iyona Whitehead of the Anacostia Community Museum's Citizen scientist program with teacher Allison Cawood during an outing to a tributary of the Anacostia Watershed near Kennilworth Park in support of the Anacostia Community Museum's Citizen Scientist Program which received support from State Farm. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- Students M’Kya Denny and Iyona Whitehead of the Anacostia Community Museum’s Citizen scientist program with teacher Allison Cawood during an outing to a tributary of the Anacostia Watershed near Kennilworth Park in support of the Anacostia Community Museum’s Citizen Scientist Program which received support from State Farm.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

 

October 31, 2015- Smithsonian Director Michelle Delaney helps anchor a point of measurement during a visit to a tributary of the Anacostia Watershed near Kennilworth Park to watch the Anacostia Community Museum's Citizen Scientist Program test water levels.  The program received support from State Farm. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- Smithsonian Director Michelle Delaney helps anchor a point of measurement during a visit to a tributary of the Anacostia Watershed near Kennilworth Park to watch the Anacostia Community Museum’s Citizen Scientist Program test water levels. The program received support from State Farm.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- Howard University biology professor Jenelle Burke watches over two students, Takia Holstein, left, and M'Kya Denny, right, during an outing to a tributary of the Anacostia Watershed near Kennilworth Park in support of the Anacostia Community Museum's Citizen Scientist Program which received support from State Farm. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- Howard University biology professor Jenelle Burke watches over two students, Takia Holstein, left, and M’Kya Denny, right, during an outing to a tributary of the Anacostia Watershed near Kennilworth Park in support of the Anacostia Community Museum’s Citizen Scientist Program which received support from State Farm.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- Citizen Scientists Program manager Tony Thomas chats with Rebecca Bankhead of the Univeristy of DC, and Cassandra Carcamo of State Farm, during an outing to a tributary of the Anacostia Watershed near Kennilworth Park in support of the Anacostia Community Museum's Citizen Scientist Program which received support from State Farm. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- Citizen Scientists Program manager Tony Thomas chats with Rebecca Bankhead of the Univeristy of DC, and Cassandra Carcamo of State Farm, during an outing to a tributary of the Anacostia Watershed near Kennilworth Park in support of the Anacostia Community Museum’s Citizen Scientist Program which received support from State Farm.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- Graduated student Cristal Sandoval assists new student Iyona Whitehead while Howard University Chemistry Professor Vernon Morris and State Farm Representative Angela Rosser watch the test they students are conducting.  The group were on an outing to a tributary of the Anacostia Watershed near Kennilworth Park in support of the Anacostia Community Museum's Citizen Scientist Program which received support from State Farm. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- Graduated student Cristal Sandoval assists new student Iyona Whitehead while Howard University Chemistry Professor Vernon Morris and State Farm Representative Angela Rosser watch the test they students are conducting. The group were on an outing to a tributary of the Anacostia Watershed near Kennilworth Park in support of the Anacostia Community Museum’s Citizen Scientist Program which received support from State Farm.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- Citizen Scientist alum Zee Wright walks with Howard Professors Tracy Perkins and Vernon Morris during an outing to a tributary of the Anacostia Watershed near Kennilworth Park in support of the Anacostia Community Museum's Citizen Scientist Program which received support from State Farm. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- Citizen Scientist alum Zee Wright walks with Howard Professors Tracy Perkins and Vernon Morris during an outing to a tributary of the Anacostia Watershed near Kennilworth Park in support of the Anacostia Community Museum’s Citizen Scientist Program which received support from State Farm.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- A group shot of the supporters and Citizen Scientists after an outing to a tributary of the Anacostia Watershed near Kennilworth Park in support of the Anacostia Community Museum's Citizen Scientist Program which received support from State Farm. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- A group shot of the supporters and Citizen Scientists after an outing to a tributary of the Anacostia Watershed near Kennilworth Park in support of the Anacostia Community Museum’s Citizen Scientist Program which received support from State Farm.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- Anacostia Community Museum Deputy Director Sharon Reinckens poses with State Farm Representative Angela Rosser, Tony Thomas, Anacostia Community Museum Citizen Scientist Program Manager, Anacostia Community Museum Director of Development Tykia Warden, and Dwayne Redd of State Farm's Youth Advisory Board during a ceremony honoring State Farm's Youth Advisory Board's funding of the Anacostia Community Museum Citizen Scientist Program. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- Anacostia Community Museum Deputy Director Sharon Reinckens poses with State Farm Representative Angela Rosser, Tony Thomas, Anacostia Community Museum Citizen Scientist Program Manager, Anacostia Community Museum Director of Development Tykia Warden, and Dwayne Redd of State Farm’s Youth Advisory Board during a ceremony honoring State Farm’s Youth Advisory Board’s funding of the Anacostia Community Museum Citizen Scientist Program.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- State Farm Representative Angela Rosser poses with Anacostia Community Museum Deputy Director Sharon Reinckens during a ceremony honoring State Farm's Youth Advisory Board's funding of the Anacostia Community Museum Citizen Scientist Program. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- State Farm Representative Angela Rosser poses with Anacostia Community Museum Deputy Director Sharon Reinckens during a ceremony honoring State Farm’s Youth Advisory Board’s funding of the Anacostia Community Museum Citizen Scientist Program.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- State Farm Representative Angela Rosser and Dwayne Redd  poses with members of the Anacostia Community Museum, student's in the museum's Citizen Scientist Program during a ceremony honoring State Farm's Youth Advisory Board's funding of the Anacostia Community Museum Citizen Scientist Program. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- State Farm Representative Angela Rosser and Dwayne Redd poses with members of the Anacostia Community Museum, student’s in the museum’s Citizen Scientist Program during a ceremony honoring State Farm’s Youth Advisory Board’s funding of the Anacostia Community Museum Citizen Scientist Program.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

About the Citizen Scientist Program at the Anacostia Community Museum:

The Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum (ACM) Citizen Scientist Project (CSP) is an out-of-school time, scientific-inquiry-based enrichment program that introduces at-risk students to STEM concepts and careers through learning about the environment and civic engagement. CSP participants contribute to local, statewide, and national efforts to protect the Anacostia Watershed, one of the nation’s most densely-populated waterways. Program activities include independent and group research, field work that emphasizes science-based inquiry, public presentations, and behind-the-scenes access to Smithsonian scientists and educators.

Important community partnerships allow CSP participants to access professional facilities, world-class research and activities, and supplies and equipment facilitating meaningful community work. CSP began through a partnership with the United Planning Organization (UPO)—a nonprofit that serves low-income residents in the nation’s capital. The UPO group of 40 African American students hails from Washington’s Ward 7 and 8 neighborhoods which are largely affected by the degradation of the Anacostia River. The original group began the program as rising high school juniors, and will graduate this spring. A new cohort of rising sixth graders will join the UPO program this summer and will begin CSP activities in September.

Through CSP, the museum is training four classroom science teachers in Prince George’s County, MD to help implement this unique youth leadership program with students in an out-of-school time capacity. This will impact an additional 40 to 60 students in grades 5 through 12, serving predominately-minority student populations.  By engaging students in Prince Georges County and the District, CSP students will collect water quality data in two of the three jurisdictions of the Anacostia Watershed. Future plans to add classrooms in Montgomery County, MD will see the program “cover” the entire watershed with CSP activities.

 

Urban Ecology Engagement Initiative’s Second Cohort Presentations

Students in the second cohort of the Urban Ecology Engagement Initiative gather after their presentations.

Students in the second cohort of the Urban Ecology Engagement Initiative gather after their presentations.

Rising 7th graders at Hart Middle School gathered with family and friends in ACM’s program room to give their first presentations as part of Urban Waterways’ Urban Ecology Engagement initiative. The middle schoolers (cohort2.0) have just completed a six-week summer program made possible by the collaborative efforts of UPO’s P.O.W.E.R program, the  Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum, and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. The community stewardship initiative follows students from 7th through 12th grades and engages them in the collection of biological, chemical, and habitat data from five tributaries of the Anacostia River, the development of a database, the exploration of the impact of pollution on the watershed and the development of recommendations and possible solutions.

The event started with several members of the previous cohort (cohort 1.0) who are in the final preparations for the start of their freshman year at college. Students will be attending such schools as The University of Pittsburgh, Trinity University, Capitol Technology University, and Virginia State University to pursue degrees in Mechanical Engineering, Telecommunication Engineering, Astrophysics, Childhood Education, and Electrical Engineering.

JosephSmithjpg

Joseph Smith gets encouragement from a member of the graduating first cohort.

Members of the new cohort then stepped forward to present their experiences over the last six weeks. Unlike some of their friends who spent their days swimming or playing basketball, the middle schoolers spent part of their time in classrooms on the campus of Bowie State University. A significant part of their time was spent pushing their boundaries in the exploration of the Anacostia Watershed with boat rides on the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers and field trips to Sandy Spring, MD – a watershed headwater site and a major Underground Railroad depot, Washington Aqueduct, which provides the drinking water for DC, some surrounding counties and  DC Water’s Blue Plains Wastewater treatment plant. In their presentations, students provided definitions of a watershed, shared their favorite experiences from the field trips, and discussed future career goals. Many were impressed by the boat trips and the wildlife they saw in and along the river. Others were also struck by the amount of pollution they saw floating in the water. A major question asked by many of the presenters was how can the water be cleaned and the watershed made safer. Many students, impressed by their tour of Blue Palins, expressed an interest in pursuing careers in wastewater treatment by obtaining more information on the subject.

Students will continue their exploration of the Anacostia watershed as the school year continues through a variety of Saturday programming.

MichaelStaton

Michael Staton discusses one of the group’s field trips.

 

Audience

ACM’s Shelia Parker (2nd row) was among the guests who enjoyed the students’ presentations

 

ACM's  Education Program Coordinator Tony Thomas and members of the first and second cohorts.

ACM’s Education Program Coordinator Tony Thomas and members of the first and second cohorts.

The Urban Waterways Symposium – Gathering to “Tell Story”

Saturday, March 28, 2015

9:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Thurgood Marshall Academy PCHS

2427 Martin Luther King Jr Ave SE

Washington, DC 20020

One of the central goals of the Urban Waterways project has been to provide means for the collaborators in our network to share their concerns, practices, and accomplishments with communities facing similar challenges.  On March 28, 2015, the museum will provide a space for our collaborators as they gather for the Urban Waterways Symposium.

Panelists from Baltimore, Chicago, D.C., Hawaii, Los Angeles, Louisville, and Turkey Creek will gather to share their experiences, best practices, and next steps regarding such issues as Education & Practice, Environmentalism & Recreation, Grassroots Leadership, Collaboration, Waterfront Development, and Gentrification & New Urbanism.

The symposium will help to further the project’s long-standing goals of creating a cross-disciplinary dialogue among scholars, government  officials, activists, and scientists, eliciting first-hand  information from residents of local communities, and engaging all who are interested with on-going activities that will enable their participation in reclamation, restoration, and appropriate redevelopment of their urban waterways  and their communities.

Register at urbanwaterways.eventzilla.net

Use Invite Code ACMUWS2015

9:00-10:00 AM

CHECK-IN & CONTINENTAL BREAKFAST

CONCURRENT PANEL SESSIONS

10:00-11:15 AM

EDUCATION AND PRACTICE

RECREATION & ENVIRONMENTALISM

11:30 AM-12:45 PM

COLLABORATION TECHNIQUES

MODELS IN GRASSROOTS LEADERSHIP

1:00-2:15 PM

KEYNOTE & LUNCH

2:30 -3:45 PM

WATERFRONT DEVELOPMENT

GENTRIFICATION & NEW URBANISM

The rise of Marion Barry and the Anacostia Community Museum

This morning Washington DC woke to the news that Marion Barry has passed away during the night. With the tributes and reflections will doubtless continue over next week, I wanted to contribute a small, relatively overlooked coincidence between the birth of the Anacostia Community Museum and the rise of Marion Barry in the civic sphere.

ACMA_riot clipping

Some of the early creation stories of the Anacostia Community Museum point to the creation of the Greater Anacostia People’s corporation (GAP) following a small disturbance in which some local youths threw bottles at the local police station. While community leaders did rally around the organization of youth activities, it wasn’t after a small tussle, but after a major clash between hundreds of youth and police.

On 9 August 1966 a youth meeting at the Southeast House was broken up by District Police from the local 11th precinct on the pretext of arresting two attendees for a stabbing that had taken place in recent weeks. Fed up with systematic maltreatment by the police, lack of opportunities for work or recreation, and , honestly, probably suffering some of DC’s notorious August heat, the youths – a group of 300 –attacked the 11th precinct police station. Throwing rocks, bottles and bricks at the station and assembled police force, the local youths were met with tear gas, clubs and German shepherds. In the end, more than a dozen youths were arrested and the city motivated to quick action to quell future uprisings.[2]

In response the City mobilized many departments and committees to create opportunities for the youth of Anaostia. Appointed District Commissioner Walter Tobriner called a committee to investigate the incident (and, by association, for the first time, the police)[3] The National Capital Housing Authority, LadyBird Johnson’s National Capital Beautification Committee, the District Police and DC Recreation Department all began allocating funds towards weekly parties and work opportunites for Anacostia youths. Several temporary pools were moved into the neighborhood to make up for disparities with the rest of the city. Within the DC Recreation Department “clean-by-day, party-by night projects” were created and soon formalized into the Roving Leaders and Trail Blazers youth programs operated by Polly Shackleton and Stanley Anderson.[4] While the Commissioner’s investigative committee quickly disbanded without results, the Police significantly shifted leadership at the 11th precinct. Anacostia and the problem of its youth became a pressing matter for national politicians and suddenly there was a pressing need to provide meaningful and significant investment in education and recreation East of the Anacostia River.[5]

The committee investigating the police, in particular, was a significant event. Following the 11th precinct riot, DC Commissioner Walter Tobriner called together a commission to examine the problem and report on solutions. Initial response to the committee was troubled as it contained no youth leaders or African American leaders. Quickly responding to the criticism, Tobriner appointed Marion Barry and Julius Hobson to the committee, but Hobson declined while Barry surprisingly accepted.  Prior to this committee, Marion Barry had focused his activism in Washington DC on social action and had been highly critical of participation in government and civic affairs. Barry stepped in and turned the commission upside down, in what I believe was  his first foray into public civil service.

From the beginning, Barry upended the process and composition of the Committee. With an organized group of young people crowding the committee chamber, he challenged the leadership, makup and governance of the committee. With a large crowd at his back, he compelled the committee to accept additional youth members and a vote for the chairmanship (which he won). Going against common practice, he called for the testimony of Tobriner and of the DC chief of police, demanding they be held to account for the response to the riot and the treatment of the residents of Anacostia. When they refused to submit, he quit, effectively ending the committee and the District’s response to the incident. By the end of the year, a grand jury had declined to indict anyone for the riot. With the incident and his participation in the committee, Barry appeared to have raised his public profile significantly and it marks, I believe, his ascendance in DC politics. 

This large-scale disturbance caused a widespread increase in social services in Anacostia. Youth programs were created and expanded and implemented at a rapid pace. The presence of these agencies and project leaders is important for the concentration of attention on Anacostia. Stanley Anderson, director of the Roving Leaders program, was “practically the mayor of Anacostia”[6] owning several properties along the main thoroughfare and serving as vice-Chairman of the Greater Anacostia People’s Corporation. Polly Shackleton, director of the Trail Blazers program, sat on Mrs. Johnson’s Beautification commission and, like Anderson, would be among the first District Council members appointed by LBJ and elected after home rule. Working with both of these two was Caryl Marsh a consulting sociologist to the District Department of Recreation who would move to the Smithsonian in late 1966 to work for Secretary Ripley.

According to interviews from 1985, “Carolyn Marsh—then a special consultant to the District Department of Recreation—discussed with Stanley Anderson the possibility of Anacostia as a site for a neighborhood museum. Anderson took the idea to a meeting of that organization. Despite initial skepticism, Anderson sold it to GAP and GAP in turn sold it to the community.”[7] Owner of the increasingly disused Carver theater, Anderson encouraged other members of the GAP to see that the neighborhood museum could open up the possibilities of jobs and creative outlets for a community in need of both. Connected to the DC Recreation department, he began to liaise with the Smithsonian’s Charles Blitzer.[8]

Marsh, on her end, worked to re-initiate the concept and appears to have worked with Secretary Ripley to reassign his Neighborhood Museum idea from Frank Taylor, Director of the U.S. National Museum (into whose portfolio the idea was apparently entered sometime around 1964) to Charles Blitzer, then Assistant Secretary for Education.[9] Blitzer was introduced to the project when he and Marsh met with Ripley “at a dinner one night and they talked about the new museum project. Neither Dillon Ripley nor Blitzer knew a lot about Washington, but Caryl knew a lot about it. One drizzly Saturday morning she guided the two of them to various sections: Adams-Morgan, Capital hill, Anacostia. As Blitzer recalled, Caryl felt the new museum ought to be in Anacostia and by the end of the day. Ripley and Blitzer felt that way, too.”[10]



[1] Stephanie Yvette Felix, African American Women in Social Reform, Welfare and Activism: Southeast Settlement House, Washington, DC 1950-1970, Master’s thesis, University of Wisconsin Madison, 1992. From the Smithsonian Institution Archives. A. P2-3, 38.

[2] Richard Severo, “Melee in Anacostia Shows Police Isolation,” Washington Post 20 August 1966, B1.John Kinard Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives.

[3] John Matthews, “Anacostia Probers Shatter Stereotype From the Start,” The Sunday Star 21 August 1966, B-4. John Kinard Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives.

[4] Aaron Latham, “Parties Planned to End Unruliness in SE,” Washington Post 29 August 1966. John Kinard Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives.

[5] Meryle Secrest, “Mrs. Johnson Hits the Trail with the Blazers,” Washington Post, 18 August 1967. [Teppy James], “A Day in Anacostia: Gude Explores Problems ‘Across the River’ [Washington DC] The Evening Standard 11 February 1967. John Kinard Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives.

[6] Charles Blitzer interview notes, John Kinard Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives.

[7] Frank X. Delaney, “From Gap to the Green Line; “Anacostia” in Transition,” unpublished manuscript, Spring 1985. P.17-18. See Also, Percy Battle, Interview with Dana Powell, 1 July 1991. John Kinard Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives.

[8] “Interview with Almore Dale for the History of the ANM,” Spring, 1972. Smithsonian Institution Archives.

[9] Esther Nighbert, Interview with Gail Lowe, 1 September 1992. See Also: Julian Euell, Interview with Stephanie Felix, 5 July 1991; and Charles Blitzer, Interview with Gail Lowe, 30 March 1992. John Kinard Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives.

[10] Charles Blitzer, Interview with Gail Lowe, 30 March 1992. John Kinard Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives.

 

 

Ebola: Charles Smith and Social Activism

The Folk Art collections of the Anacostia Community Museum frequently relate to personal responses to global events. One can read awareness and activism in the museum’s collections made by artists such as Leslie Payne, Dereck Wilson and Mr. Imagination. Charles Smith, however, possibly rises above in his intimate portrayal of fellow activists and his figural representation of social and community afflictions around the world.

Charles Smith, Ebola, 2001. Kohler Foundation Collection, Anacostia Community Museum. 2004.0011.0011

Smith’s 2001 sculpture, Ebolacaptures his concern about the disease and its effects on his (and our) contemporaries in West Africa. Dr. Charles Smith (Doctor of Life) believes in the Sankofa proverb, “you can’t go forward until you look back.” Thus, many of his sculptures are janus-faced and can address the future and the past at once. This cement figure is painted brown on the front face, red on the raised lettering spelling “EBOLA” cascading down the front of the figure, and white on the remaining body areas.

This work sought to bring awareness to this deadly disease, long before this current, closely (and loudly) watched outbreak. Smith’s use of found materials and public presentation makes the works and the addressed concerns and themes accessible to the community he hoped to inspire.

 

See more of the Kohler Foundation Collection of the sculptures of Charles Smith at the SI Collections Search Center.

 

 

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