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 Gateways: He wanted to create a piece that focused on Latinxs, but one that included space for his wife – who is not Latina- and his children.
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 …
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY, MOM!!!
Gateways is open! Through the lenses of social justice, constructing communities, and festivals as community empowerment, the exhibitionexplores the triumphs and struggles of Latinx migrants and immigrants in four urban destinations: Washington, D.C., Baltimore, MD, Raleigh-Durham, NC and Charlotte, NC
Charlotte, North Carolina has been on our minds and in our hearts these past few days. In an act of community and resilience, it felt appropriate to celebrate both the city of Charlotte and Latino Heritage Month in the next few blog posts.
Thanks to the Latino Initiatives Pool, the Anacostia Community Museum was able to acquire new collections! The Museum has acquired two pieces by Rosalia Torres-Weiner for the upcoming exhibition, Gateways, opening December 5, 2016. 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
It has been an honor and a pleasure to work with Rosalia. She is a talented Mexican born and raised, Charlotte-based artivist (artist+activst). Her energy, creativity, thoughtfulness, and commitment to social justice and community stories pervade all aspects of her life and work. I am excited for visitors to get a small glimpse of this in Gateways.
I am the curator, but the other (invaluable!) member of the Gateways team is research/curatorial assistant Elena C. Muñoz. On our trip to Charlotte last week, Elena sat down and spoke with Rosalia about her art in general, and our recent acquisitions in particular. As an art historian, Elena has a deep knowledge of this work. Below, please find Elena’s post about the first piece we will show: Uprising Against ICE.
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. Her latest series of ten large format paintings that depict both the contributions and struggles of Latino immigrants in the United States. This painting is a reimagining of one of Diego Rivera’s Mexican Revolution masterworks, The Uprising (1931).
Torres-Weiner’s paintings are typically bright, colorful pieces. This particular piece is painted in blues and grays, alluding to the ICE of the title. For this painting, the artist has abandoned her usual style and has instead mimicked both the style and composition of Mexican muralist Diego Rivera’s The Uprising.
Like Rivera’s painting, Torres-Weiner’s piece features a crowded and compressed picture plane, with a family unit battling an authority figure at the forefront. Torres-Weiner has replaced Rivera’s soldier with an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent in full SWAT gear, reaching with handcuffs towards a humbly dressed, unarmed immigrant family. Like Rivera’s female protagonist, Torres-Weiner has depicted a mother holding her swaddled child, arm outstretched to protect her family. Her husband protects their older daughter to the right of the canvas. The daughter, not present in the Rivera original, is yellow, the color of hope. The father creates a barrier between himself and the agent with a farming spade, reminding the viewer that immigrants perform much of the farm labor in the United States. To the left and behind the agent are more ICE agents and U.S. government officials in suits and ties. On the ground between the family and the primary agent is another figure and dollar bills, both trampled underfoot. Behind the immigrant family is a crowd of protesters, from which a “DREAM” sign can be seen, referring to the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act that failed to pass. In the background is a U.S. flag, a bright contrast to the icy blues and grays of the rest of the work.
In the 1990s, North Carolina led the U.S. in Latino population growth. The southeast U.S. is one of the fastest growing regions in the country, in overall population and Latino population. In January of 2016, there were several ICE raids throughout the Southeast, resulting in the detention of 121 people, most of whom are women and children. The relationship between law enforcement and North Carolina’s Latino population is strained and fraught with anxiety, especially for undocumented families.
Uprising Against ICE gives voice to this anxiety while also subverting it. Torres-Weiner reimagines a family being held together through their own power and through the support of the masses that revolt behind them.
SHORT BIO of Elena C. Muñoz
Elena 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.
SHORT BIO of Rosalia Torres-Weiner
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.
On September 24, 1902 Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) delivered the keynote speech for the dedication ceremony of Armstrong Manual Training School. The school was one of two high schools in the District of Columbia authorized by Congress for vocational education. Armstrong school was built for African Americans and McKinley for white students.
The school was named for Samuel C. Armstrong (1839-1893), a white commander of an African American Civil War regiment and founder of Hampton Institute, now University. Designed by local architect Waddy B. Woody, the Renaissance Revival building provided carpentry, machine, foundry, and blacksmith workshops. In addition, courses in bookkeeping, domestic arts, chemistry, and physics were offered. The historic school has been described as, “an important institution and symbol for the African American community in Washington, D.C. . .”
Much of the success for the school in the formative years is attributed to Dr. Wilson Bruce Evans, the founding principal and father of concert artist, Madame Lillian Evanti. In a 1904 article from the Colored American Magazine, Dr. Evans states, “although only two classes have been graduated, we find almost all of them employed in a variety of remunerative situations.” He goes on to say, “. . . two are student assistants in the United States Department of Agriculture, four are teaching in the rural schools of Maryland. . .”
Armstrong graduates also gained local, national, and in some cases international acclaimed in their chosen field. Duke Ellington, William “Billy” Eckstein, Lillian Evans Tibbs, John Malachi, and Jimmy Cobb are among a host of prominent alumni.
In 1996 Armstrong was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and now serves the local community as the Armstrong Adult Education Center. However, you can help us make a fragile Armstrong Manual Training School yearbook from 1902-1903 in our collection more accessible and searchable by transcribing it at the Smithsonian Transcription Center!
For our first #Transcribe Tuesdays, help us discover more about the early graduates of Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Washington, DC. Known as the M Street High School from 1891 to 1916, the school quickly became the most highly rated secondary school for blacks in the country.
This 1923 Dunbar autograph book belonged to Ella B. Howard Pearis (1905-1998). Mrs. Pearis was a fourth generation resident of Anacostia, Washington, DC. She came from a family of community activists and carried on that tradition through her work for organizations such as the Anacostia Historical Society and the Anacostia—Congress Heights Red Cross Service.
Transcribe the Paul Lauence Dunbar High School Autograph book, here!
In celebration of Women’s History Month, we will feature women from our various archival collections throughout the month who have contributed to the field of education locally and/or nationally.
We start with Wilhelmina Bessie Patterson, a woman described in a July 1946 article in The Pittsburgh Courier as “. . . one of our Nation’s most praiseworthy women” due to her work and contribution to music education.
Born on June 23, 1888, in Calvert, Texas to William Ross Patterson and Mamie Brooks Patterson, she along with her five siblings were orphaned by the time she was fifteen years old. Her parents died approximately a year apart in Washington, DC. The family had settled in the Anacostia area some years earlier when Mr. Patterson received a government position.
Educated in the District of Columbia school system, Wilhelmina graduated from Old M Street High School, known now as Paul Laurence Dunbar High School; the Washington Conservatory of Music and Miner Normal School. After receiving a recommendation from Mary Church Terrell, she obtained a teaching position in Gainesville, Texas. Taking her youngest sibling, Fred with her to Texas, she provided for his education with her salary from various teaching jobs. Fred would benefit from her guidance and support for he would become the third President of Tuskegee Institute, now University and a founder of the United Negro College Fund. Speaking of her brother, Ms. Patterson once stated, “people used to speak of him as my brother; now they refer to me as ‘Dr. Patterson’s sister”. She goes on to say, “we are all very proud of Fred and the excellent work he has done.”
Wilhelmina also did excellent work in her career as a music teacher. She served as head of the Music Department at Prairie View State College; taught music for twelve years at Hampton Institute, now University and directed their Women’s Glee Club. She received a scholarship to study at Oberlin Conservatory of Music and later earned a Bachelor’s Degree of Music from the University of Pennsylvania.
Ms. Patterson moved back to Washington, DC in 1934 and began to manage the music program at Shiloh Baptist Church. She also maintained a studio at the church and at her home in Anacostia given to her by her brother Fred. Wilhelmina was interested in making her home music center “a place where my musical friends, young and old, may gather in an ideal environment.” During her long career she also served as a D.C. Recreation Department music specialists at the Burrville Center overseeing the instruction and training of children desiring to play instruments.
On October 1, 1962, Ms. Patterson retired as director of the Shiloh Baptist Church after 28 years of service. She died on November 9, 1962. Students and congregation members who knew Ms. Patterson still remember her dedication to teaching music. Ms. Patterson believe there wasn’t any greater “joy in life than in training children and seeing their talents develop as much as possible.”
Dale, Dianne. The Village That Shaped Us: A Look at Washington DC’s Anacostia Community (Lanham, MD: Dale Publishing, 2011)
Smith, Violet Key. “Interesting D.C. Women,” The Pittsburgh Courier, July 1946
Dale/Patterson Family Collection
A special thank you to Judy C. Williams, Historian at Shiloh Baptist Church for providing a copy of Ms. Patterson’s funeral program.
My Smithsonian experience has been unbelievable; I have gained skills I thought I would never know, met people who have changed the way I see things and had the most remarkable time becoming more and more independent. I feel that this experience has been life altering to me, as of 2 years ago I would have never have had the courage to fly to America and volunteer at the Smithsonian, and now that I’ve done it, I can’t see myself working anywhere else.
In my week of volunteering at the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum, I assisted Jennifer Morris, the museum’s archivist. She introduced me to several aspects of the archival profession. I helped with the arrangement and description of the Dale/Patterson Family collection which documents the lives of two families who settled in the Hillsdale, Anacostia area of Washington, DC in 1892. Ms. Morris also trained me on Archivists’ Toolkit an archival data management system. I attended meetings and received a behind-the-scenes tour of the Archive Center at the National Museum of American Indian. Jennifer was hard-working and kind-hearted and I enjoyed so much helping her, she aided me to learn as much as my 16 year old brain could hold.
At the museum I finally met the lady who answered my very first email offering me a placement at the Anacostia, Shelia Parker. It was wonderful to finally put a face to the name and she turned out to be one of the nicest people I have ever met. All the people at the museum welcomed me with open arms and wide smiles, I never at any point felt unwelcome or un-wanted; I even had an ongoing comical conversation with one of the guards about my stupid need to get a cab everywhere, when he insists to use Uber.
In the museum, I saw two enormously interesting exhibits first, How the Civil War Changed Washington for which I now know about Washington’s tragic Arsenal event of 1864, where 29 women were working when a colossal fire broke out killing 3 instantly and leaving 18 to die from vicious burns. Second, I learned about Panamanian immigration to Washington, DC from the Bridging the Americas exhibition.
In England I will be starting college this September, studying History Early Modern, English Literature, Psychology and Archeology. I hope that after college, when I turn 18, I can obtain an internship at the Smithsonian giving me the opportunity to be able to come back to DC and gain even more skills and meet even more generous and wholehearted people. There are a lot of people I need to thank, such as, Shelia Parker for answering an annoying English girl’s email, Jennifer Morris who taught me so much and created the best experience I could ever imagine and my family who’s financial and loving support got me to Washington, DC to make memories and start the journey to my, hopeful, aspiring future.
All that I can do now is to work hard and never lose sight of my dream to return to Washington, DC and work at a Smithsonian Museum!
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.
Undated portrait of Thelma Dale Perkins. Dale/Patterson Family papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Dianne Dale.
Thelma Dale Perkins was born on October 23, 1915 in her family’s home on Sumner Rd SE in Hillsdale, Washington, DC. Her parents, John H. Dale, Jr. and Lucille Patterson Dale, belonged to families who settled in the Nation’s Capital during the Reconstruction era and produced several prominent achievers. Her maternal uncle Frederick Douglass Patterson was the third president of Tuskegee Institution and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1987.
Growing up in a family that emphasized “civic pride and service to others” probably contributed to Thelma’s desire to work hard and uphold the family tradition of civic service. Thelma’s parents’ prized education and stressed the importance of their children furthering their studies. The youngest of four childhen, Thelma attended Birney Elementary School and the locally renowned Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, America’s first public school for African Americans. In 1932, she entered Howard University to study teaching and social work.
It was during her college years that Thelma’s involvement in volunteer and civic organizations began. She was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and the Liberal Club, which “advocated for the integration of African Americans” into the greater society. Thelma joined the Southern Negro Youth Congress and, as a member of the American Youth Congress, she attended informal “chats” at the White House sponsored by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to discuss issues facing youth of the day.
After graduating in 1936, she worked for distinguished Howard University sociologist Dr. E. Franklin Frasier on a National Youth Administration Fellowship and for the Federal Government. As Mrs. Perkins later recalled, “I resigned from the government rather than sign a loyalty oath and accepted the job of National Secretary of the National Negro Congress in New York City.”
Thelma made lasting friendships in her career, among them Paul and Eslanda Robeson. She was managing editor for Paul Robeson’s Freedom newspaper and involved in the campaign to get his passport restored during the McCarthy years. To celebrate, Mrs. Robeson’s appearance before the McCarthy’s Committee she invited Eslanda to her parents’ home in Hillsdale. She states in Paul Robeson: The Great Forerunner, “That afternoon, Essie [Eslanda] relaxed and enjoyed the visit with my parents and their neighbors as though she had known them all her life.”
Thelma Dale Perkins speaking at an unidentified event. Dale/Patterson Family papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Dianne Dale.
In 1957, she married Lawrence Rickman Perkins Jr., a Lincoln University graduate and adopted two babies, Lawrence Dale Perkins and Patrice Dale Perkins. Later in her career, Mrs. Perkins won several awards for her dedication and contributions to local organizations in New York. As a manager of community relations for CIBA-GEIGY Corporation she initiated and developed the nationally recognized “Exceptional Black Scientist” series. “It was a great joy as it allowed me the opportunity to interact with young people and stimulate them to consider careers in science,” she later recalled.
Following the death of her husband, Mrs. Perkins moved to Chapel Hill, NC and continued her family tradition of civic involvement. On September 29, 2014 she passed away peacefully.