Teachers, staff, students, parents and community members recently celebrated D.C.’s rich, unique culture during an event that further connected young people to many of the modern-day movers and shakers they had spent months learning about while completing a major project.
That project, known as the D.C. Black Facts Cards, involved students not only compiling a list of District political and social figures, landmarks and themes, but creating commemorative cards about each of those local cultural elements.
At the May 26 unveiling, community members who packed the auditorium saw Black facts cards bearing the likeness of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Anwan “Big G” Glover and Leroy “Weensey” Brandon Jr. of the Backyard Band, sportscaster and onetime Bunker Hill student James Brown, Angel Gregorio of the Spice Suite, Poet Taylor of WPGC 95.5 FM, painter Demont “Peekaso” Pinder, Raheem Devaughn, comedians Dave Chapelle and Chico Bean, actor and entrepreneur Taraji P. Henson, singer Ari Lennox, jazz legend Duke Ellington and Sharon Pratt, the District’s first Black female mayor, along with the late Marion Barry, often called the District’s “mayor for life.”
Other Black Facts Cards featured Industrial Bank, the District’s premier Black-owned bank, Madness Clothing Company, mambo sauce, the Goodman League, Florida Ave Grill, WPGC’s The Good Morning Show with Monique Samuels, Ledroit Park, Lee’s Flower Shop, M Street High School, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Kendall Maloney, a pre-K-3 teacher at Bunker Hill and Black History committee chair, said the D.C. Black Facts Card represented an opportunity for young people to know and appreciate the history of their city.
“I am a proud native Washingtonian [with] a vested interest [with] my mom and better half being alumni [of Bunker Hill Elementary.],” Maloney said. “I started to wonder if my students knew how many legends, changemakers, politicians, artists and positive disruptors are from D.C. Do they really know how many people want to be part of D.C. culture and silence it? I want those kids to see you among kings and queens. This project came from a place of love.”
Maloney conducted this project with Hannah Hill, a first-year instructor at Bunker Hill Elementary and Black History committee co-chair. It follows another Black history project in which students recreated famous Ebony magazine covers.
The unveiling ceremony at Bunker Hill Elementary last week attracted several of the local figures who were featured on the cards. Todd B of WPGC’s The Good Morning Show, who accepted a card on behalf of Samuels and his other radio co-hosts, announced each Black history card that appeared on a projector.
Each card had the figure’s name with either a drawing or a photo of a student dressed like that person.
As Todd B. named each figure, the student who represented that figure stood up and presented their Black Facts Card to that person if they were in the audience. For instance, first grader William Bell gave Big G his Black Facts Card. Fourth grader Jada Kelly presented Bowser with a card of her own as well.
In her remarks, Bowser acknowledged D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee, a guest at the unveiling. She also expressed her appreciation for Maloney and Hill instilling D.C. pride in their students.
“It’s so important that our children know our history and they know about Washington before and after Home Rule and they know regular people like them grow up to be great people and do important things,” Bowser said. “You know I’m a D.C. native. You also heard me say that my family is fifth-generation, and those who moved here five minutes ago are Washingtonians too. D.C. Black Facts is a celebration of history and I’m glad to be a part of that.”
On Friday, Todd B. touched on how he learned about D.C. culture from his late wife. Days later, as he stood outside of WPGC studios in what has been a rapidly developing Navy Yard neighborhood, he reflected on how D.C. residents embraced him upon his move from Florida several years ago.
Todd B. told The Informer that District residents, as protective as they can be about their city, often open the red carpet for transplants who respect the District’s unique culture and don’t set out to destroy it.
Long after the celebration, he expressed his hope that newcomers who call D.C. their home foster an attitude of cooperation, rather than colonization.
“I wanted to be a part of the culture. I didn’t want to change or control it. If people try to immerse themselves and not try to mute it and put alien concepts into the city, then all will be fine. When we think about Chuck Brown and Marion Barry, no one’s more D.C. than them, but they weren’t born here. That shows how D.C. will embrace you if you embrace it.”