Designed to enhance reading, research skills, creative ability, and social and intellectual development, the Anacostia Community Museum Academy is a cultural arts enrichment program for youth ages seven to eleven in collaboration with schools in the southeast neighborhoods of Washington, DC. Our current partner is A. Kiger Savoy Elementary School. Using the expertise of Anacostia Community Museum and Smithsonian Institution educators, historians, curators, and researchers, as well as the talents of local artists, illustrators, and writers, the program incorporates classroom-based studies with field trips and experiential learning activities.
The Museum Academy gathered for a year-end program in which the students performed and recited works that were inspired but what they had learned throughout the school year. Cake was served as well (see below).
With an additional focus on building and strengthening children’s self-esteem, interpersonal relationships, cognitive development, and critical thinking, the Museum Academy helps children to advance in personal and academic growth. The program introduces children to cultural resources and institutions in and beyond Washington, DC, as a means to open a world of possibilities and opportunities for the children to learn, discover, explore, and express themselves. The Museum Academy Program is sponsored in part by the DC Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation.
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.
An estimated 40,000 to 50,000 enslaved African Americans fled from Virginia and Maryland to Washington during the Civil War. They were originally called “contrabands.” This was a term coined by the press after General Major General Benjamin Butler’s decision in 1861 to not return three fugitive slaves who had come to Fort Monroe, Hampton Roads in Virginia. Rather than sending them back to their owner—where they had been building a Confederate artillery position—Butler opted to hold them as contraband war loot. Ironically, this legal loophole allowed Union soldiers an opportunity to grant escaped slaves a type of freedom by continuing to treat them as property.
In Washington, these new arrivals were first thrown into jail by the city’s authorities and later taken under the care of the military and interned in a sequence of camps. Subjected to crowding and unsanitary conditions they were decimated by contagious diseases such as tuberculosis, smallpox, typhoid fever, diphtheria, and cholera. Infants died due to fevers, diarrhea, and convulsions.
Children often were separated from their families. Some of them were taken in by the military and served as servants for the officers. Others were sent to the Orphan Home located in Georgetown where conditions were as bad as they had been in the camps. Still others were hired out to people who promised to provide education, health care, housing and clothing in exchange for their service, but who, in some instances, mistreated them badly.
Out of these desperate circumstances emerged after the Civil War a population, often identified as “Freedmen,” who made their home in Washington determined to live a new life as free people. In 1860, the African American population of Washington was 14,316, by 1870 the number had raised to 35, 455, an increase of over 200%. These newcomers were the first wave that would make of Washington a majority African American city in mid-20th century.
Today, 150 years after the Civil War, Washington is changing again. Fast-paced gentrification, which has brought into the city a number of young, affluent residents of many ethnicities, has reversed the trend and Washington is no longer a majority African-American city.
JOIN THE EAST RIVER FAMILY STRENGTHENING COLLABORATIVE IN ITS ANNUAL 7 WARD 7 WOMEN OF EXCELLENCE AWARDS LUNCHEON ON MARCH 26, 2015 AT NOON. FOR MORE INFORMATION OR TO NOMINATE A WOMAN ENTREPRENEUR OR SMALL BUSINESS OWNER FOR THIS YEAR’S CEREMONY VISIT:
Scholars in Wards 7 & 8 and beyond: Please consider applying to the Smithsonian’s 2015 Latino Museum Studies Program. The program seeks scholars and emerging leaders in the fields of Latino history, art, and culture. You can come to Anacostia and use our resources to broaden your understanding. More information can be found bellow or by visiting www.latino.si.edu.
North Brentwood community member conducting tour of exhibition, 1996. Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution.
Footsteps from North Brentwood, an exhibition which documented the growth and development of the first municipality in Prince Georges County, Maryland incorporated by African American citizens, opened on July 12, 1996 at the Anacostia Community Museum. The show was developed by the museum in collaboration with the North Brentwood Historical Society. It included a collection of photographs, documents, and artifacts collected by the North Brentwood Historical Society over a three year period. In addition, the exhibit featured oral history interviews with community members which speak to individual remembrances of growing up in North Brentwood.
Besides historical photographs and documents, Footsteps from North Brentwood exhibition records also contain portraits of community members taken by museum photographer.
Our cities and towns are situated along rivers and streams. Often these waterways mark the geographic boundaries and set the physical identity for the places where we live and work. We expect our rivers to be streams of fresh, flowing water. We look for natural beauty along the riversides, with birds wheeling overhead, fish swimming and jumping in the waters, and lovely flowers and trees along the riverbanks. We think our urban waterways will provide peace and solitude in the midst of our hectic daily lives in the already big—and in the still developing—cities that we call “home.”
It’s Our River.
We fish for perch and catfish and sometimes eat the fish, but most of the time we throw them back. We boat and paddle, in yachts, canoes, and kayaks, and we race in dragon boats and racing sculls. We go bird watching, and we seek out special flowers and orchids along the shore. We bike and hike and sit and meditate along the banks this river. The river calls us, and, guided by the river’s spirit, we commune with nature in the midst of urban hustle and bustle.
Festivals are wonderful ways to bring people together in celebration and recreation. While great strides had been made in cleaning up the Potomac River, then-Mayor Marion Barry saw the Anacostia River as the great social divide in Washington. In 1984 he inaugurated an annual river festival to get people from all walks of life to come down to the water and see the potential of the Washington riverfronts along the Potomac and the Anacostia.
Since that time, the river fest idea has evolved into the development of a park-like venue near the baseball stadium, “The Yards Park,” and a schedule that includes river clean-up celebrations, the Kingman Island Bluegrass and Folk Festival, and the Anacostia River Jazz Festival sponsored by the National Park Service. During the course of the year the Anacostia waterfront at the “Yards” plays host to numerous ethnic festivals such as the Global Nepal Fest and art shows and contests along the riverfront. All of these activities help the District celebrate in many ways the revitalization of the Anacostia River.
Boating on the river has become increasingly popular. This recreational use provides a marvelous opportunity to learn respect for nature and the river and to value the river as a celebrated place. On the Anacostia, the Seafarers Yacht Club and the Capital Rowing Club have been instrumental in helping to develop public awareness of the Anacostia River as a place for kayaking, rowing, and pleasure-boating.
On summer evenings the Anacostia Community Boathouse is awash with dozens of groups of rowers, young and old, who come to test their mettle on the river. Local interest in canoeing on the Anacostia River brings people out in the late spring and summer to the Anacostia Watershed Society’s “Paddle Nights.” As anyone who has ventured forth on the river in a canoe will tell you, the Anacostia is a waterway of exceptional beauty teaming with birdlife and other animals.
The canoe has been a major medium of transport and commerce throughout human history. In North America native peoples, then European explorers, settlers, fur traders, and missionaries, used the canoe to carry goods and people far and wide in all kinds of weather and conditions.
Kayaking is a popular recreational exercise and sport. Participants paddle in closed deck boats as they sit forward and move the boat with a paddle that has a blade on each end.
Organization for Anacostia Rowing and Sculling (OARS)
Robert “Coach” Day began the Organization for Anacostia Rowing and Sculling (OARS) in 1988 to bring crew (rowing as a sport and recreation) to underserved teens from local high schools and at-risk youth along the Anacostia River. On the original site of OARS, ten (10) member rowing clubs and four (4) high school crews now call the Anacostia Community Boathouse home base.
Anacostia Invitational Regatta
In May 1992 OARS initiated the Anacostia Invitational Regatta; community activist Carl Cole made the banner and named the first single rowing scull donated to OARS. The scull is the Dr. Frederick Douglass Patterson, Sr., named for a former Anacostia resident, who was the third president of Tuskegee Institute (now University) and the uncle of local historian Dianne Dale.
Seafarers Yacht Club
Since 1945 the Seafarers Yacht Club has been an African American presence on the river. In addition to encouraging boating on the Anacostia, the club, considered the oldest black yacht club on the East Coast (if not in America), has been a pioneer in cleaning up 150 tons of debris along the river’s shore line. Seafarers also participate in community projects like financial aid to distressed flood victims and baskets of food for the poor at Christmas time.
Dragon Boat Paddle
DC Dragons, the adult dragon boat team of the National Capital Area Women’s Paddling Association, practices out of the Anacostia Community Boathouse on the Anacostia River. Dragon boat racing is an increasingly popular international sport, with 20 paddlers in 10 rows facing front, a drummer to set the pace, and a steersperson to navigate.
Gabe Horchler, a law librarian at the Library of Congress, regularly commutes to work via the river: “Why not commute by boat, I thought . . . in less than one hour in my rowing shell? . . . March through November, my routine has been to bicycle from our home in Cheverly [Maryland] to the Bladensburg waterfront, row my boat to the Anacostia Community Boathouse adjacent to the Pennsylvania Avenue Bridge, and then ride my second bike the 1.5 miles to the Library of Congress.”
Jon boat (or johnboat)
A jon boat is a small, flat-bottomed boat with square ends, made of aluminum or wood and suitable for use on calm bodies of water, especially on urban waterways. Jon boats are favored by fishermen and hunters.