Thousands of visitors from across the country are expected to descend upon Washington, D.C., for the opening of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. The opening of this museum has long been anticipated ever since Georgian Congressman John Lewis in 1986 proposed the idea for a museum on the mall dedicated to the contributions and achievements of African Americans.
The museum’s dedication will take place on Saturday, Sept. 24 starting at 9 a.m., but District celebrations began a week earlier than the grand opening. The DC Host Committee in Celebration of the NMAAHC Dedication and Opening will host dozens of events for D.C. residents and visitors, many who will be unable to see the interior of the museum for at least several weeks due to the high demand for the free but ticketed passes.
The host committee is comprised of dozens of individuals representing community organizations, church groups and representatives from the District, Maryland and Virginia governments.
“We want persons visiting Washington, D.C. to not only see the NMAAHC but to see a city that is rich with history and culture. We want them to see some of our wonderful landmarks – places like the African American Civil War Memorial, the Howard Theater, the historic Metropolitan A.M.E. Church and the statues of Mary McCleod Bethune and Carter G. Woodson,” said Charles “Chuck” Hicks, co-chair, DC Host Committee.
Hicks shares co-chair duties with Frank Smith, director, African American Civil War Museum, a former DC Councilmember and civil rights activist. Both have spent long hours pulling together a schedule of events and activities that include concerts, movie screenings, receptions, exhibits, festivals, and even a drumming circle. Most of the events are free or have a minimal admission charge.
Hicks is also encouraging people who cannot attend the Museum’s opening and dedication ceremony on September 24 to hold Watch Parties with their friends and family. The Museum is also encouraging Watch Parties since the number of people who can attend the opening is limited and security will be especially tight due to the appearance of President Barack Obama who is scheduled to speak.
For those wishing to celebrate with a larger crowd, a number of churches are holding Watch Parties. (A list of churches holding these parties is listed below.)
According to Kinshasha Holman Conwill, deputy director, NMAAHC, who spoke to the Host Committee earlier this month, more than 7,000 people are expected to attend the dedication which will also feature speakers Chief Justice John Roberts, who serves as the Chancellor of the Smithsonian and is an ex-officio member of the Board of Regents; Congressman John Lewis; former President George and First Lady Laura Bush; and a host of other dignitaries. The program will also include a wide variety of musical entertainment.
Conwill says that they are working to have church bells ring out in every ward of the city. For persons who do not have one of the reserved seats, jumbotrons will be set up on 15th Street near the Museum. Also on 15th Street will be a three-day festival (Sept. 23-25) featuring music performances, storytelling, interactive workshops and food vendors featuring African-American cuisine from various U.S. regions. She encouraged people to keep checking the NMAAHC website for additional information about the events. (www.nmaahc.si.edu).
Conwill, who came to the NMAAHC from New York City where she worked as an arts and culture consultant and prior to that, Studio Museum director, told the Host Committee, “This Museum tells the story of African Americans in a comprehensive but not in an encyclopedic way.”
She credited NMAAHC Founding Director Lonnie G. Bunch, III for having the vision to make this dream a reality.
The DC Host Committee’s celebrations kicks off on Sunday, Sept. 18, at 5 p.m. at Shiloh Baptist Church with a special music performance, “A Historical Odyssey: From the Cradle to Liberation.” The concert will feature a 200-voice community choir with the Shiloh choir as the nucleus.
Shiloh’s Artistic Director Dr. Thomas Dixon Tyler said, “We will look at the contributions of the African-American people through our music. We will take the audience through a musical journey, starting with African chants, work songs and spirituals.”
Other churches hosting concerts are National Christian Church, 5 Thomas Circle, Northwest on Friday, Sept. 23 (A Tribute to Black Classical Composers) and Vermont Avenue Baptist Church, (Singing Our Song) 1630 Vermont Ave., Northwest on Sunday, Sept. 25.
One of the events that Hicks is especially proud of is the “Drumming for the Spirit: Remembering and Celebrating our Ancestors, Elders and Youth.” More than 100 drummers will converge on Malcolm X Park on Sunday, Sept. 25, 4:30 p.m. to form a drumming circle that will undoubtedly be heard across the city.
Courtney Williams, director of outreach for the DC Host Committee, said more volunteers are needed to distribute brochures about the week of activities and events, to answer questions about places to go in the District and to direct people to appropriate venues. Persons wishing to volunteer should sign up at the DC Host Committee website, www.dchost.org.
A complete list of activities is available at the DC Host Committee website, www.dchost.org
Watch Parties: September 24, 10 a.m. – 12 noon Opening Ceremony
- Asbury United Methodist Church
926 11th Street W (corner of 11th & K Streets)
- Academy for Ideal Education
62 T Street NE
- Allen Chapel AME Church
2498 Alabama Ave SE
- African American Civil War Museum
1925 Vermont Avenue NW
- Church of Scientology
1424 16th Street NW
- Ben’s Chili Bowl
1213 U Street NW
- Florida Avenue Baptist Church
623 Florida Avenue NW
- Galbraith AME Zion Church
1114 6th Street NW
- Israel Baptist Church
1251 Saratoga Avenue NE
- Metropolitan AME Church
1569 M Street NW
- Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church
3000 Pennsylvania Avenue SE
- Plymouth Congregational UCC
5301 North Capitol Street NE
- Shiloh Baptist Church
1500 9th Street NW
List of Scheduled Events (as of publication date):
Some information may change. Check the website for updates.
- Book signing: “The Threads of Time, The Fabrics of History: Profiles of African American Dressmakers and Designers from 1850 to the Present” (2007), Author, Rosemary E. Miller. Saturday, Sept. 17 from 2 – 6 p.m. at Zawadi Arts-Contemporary and Traditional African Arts Shop, 1524 U Street, NW: Contacts 202-232-2214; zawadiavts.com
- Concert: “A Historical Odyssey from the Cradle to Liberation”, features a 200 voice community choir singing chants, slave songs and spirituals. Sunday, Sept. 18, 5 p.m. at Shiloh Baptist Church, 1500 Ninth Street, NW. Contacts: email@example.com; 202-232-4288
- The Black Love Unity and Vision (L.U.V) Festival: A Tribute to Black Lives Matters, showcasing independent and nationally recognized musicians, poets, community/activist speakers and a live mural painting by a local community arts organization. Sept. 18, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. at St. Elizabeth’s East Gateway DC Pavilion, 2700 Martin Luther King Junior Avenue SE. Contacts: George Kerr III; George@giiiassociates; 202-838-7339
- Reception: Statehood Party Reception. Wednesday, Sept. 21, 6 – 8 p.m. at the John Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
- Festival of the Arts at AACW- Official Welcoming Reception, Thursday, Sept. 22, 7 – 9 p.m. Reception: LGBTQ Community Reception for the LGBTQ/SGL Community and Allies. Sept. 22, 7 p.m. at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Building, 1640 Rhode Island Avenue, NW
- Concert: “A Tribute to Black Classical Composers”, celebrates organ and vocal compositions. Friday, Sept. 23, 7 p.m. at National City Christian Church, 5 Thomas Circle, NW. Contact 202-232-0323
- “Jazz Night” presents The Wilson Big Band: A Tribute to John Coltrane at Westminster Church, Friday, Sept. 23, 9 p.m. General Admission $5
- Exhibit: Students for Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Exhibit. Saturday, Sept. 24, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. at Church of Scientology, 1424 16th Street NW
- Festival of the Arts at African American Civil War Museums (AACW)
- Watch Party 10 a.m. – 12 noon
- Descendants Presentation, 1 – 2 p.m.
- “Battle Hymn of a Freedman”, a play by Clarence Anthony Bush, descendent of a member of the 2nd Regiment US Colored Troop that tells the story of the 1864 Fort Pillow Massacre in Tennessee, 2 – 3:30 p.m.; 4:30 6 p.m.
- Live music 3:30 – 4:30 p.m.; 6 – 8 p.m. (at the Memorial)
- Malcolm X Drummers & Dancers 12:30-1:30 p.m.
- Free shuttle service from AACW to Mall, 12 noon – 8 p.m.
- Exhibit: 1960 Mississippi Photo Exhibit. Saturday, Sept. 24, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. at Church of Scientology, 1424 16th Street NW
- Exhibit: Art Exhibit at the Ideal Watchfest. Including Doll Making Workshop, African Drum and Dance, African Market Place and vendors. Saturday, Sept. 24 at Academy for Ideal Education, 62 T Street NE, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Contact: 202-269-3186; http://www.idealacademy.org
- Gallery: Champagne Breakfast & Viewing Party, including hot catered meal and mimosas. Serengeti Gallery, Park Central 7919 Central Avenue, Capital Heights, MD. Saturday, Sept. 24, 9 a.m. – 12 noon. Cost: $25. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 301-808-6987
- Gallery: Reception and Exhibits, including complimentary mimosas and tour of restored Rosenwald School. Saturday, Sept. 24 from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Prince George’s African American Museum & Culture Center, 4519 Rhode Island Avenue, North Brentwood, MD, 301-809-0440, ext. 102, www.pgaamcc.org
- Movie Screening: “Proud” The story of the USS Mason, the historic World War II battleship with an entirely segregated Black crew. Saturday, Sept. 24, 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at United States Navy Memorial Park, Pennsylvania Avenue between 7and 9th Streets NW
- 15th Annual D.C. Jazz Preservation Festival saluting America’s jazz heritage. Saturday, Sept. 24, 12noon – dusk at Westminster Church, 400 I Street SW
- Concert: “Singing Our Song”, a concert of hymns and traditional gospel music written by great gospel and hymn composers such as Charles Tindley, Thomas Dorsey, Lucy Campbell and many others. Sunday, Sept. 25, 3 p.m. at Vermont Avenue Baptist Church, 1630 Vermont Avenue, NW
- Drum Circle: Drumming for the Spirit: Remembering and Celebrating our Ancestors, Elders and Youth. Sunday, Sept. 25, 4:30 p.m. at Malcolm X (Meridian) Park, 16th Street between Euclid and W Streets. Contact Damian Bascom: 301-343-7915
- Gallery: A Musical Odyssey: From Africa to the Americas, featuring live music from diverse genres: blues, gospel, ragtime, R&B, hip-hop and rap. Sunday Sept. 25, 3:30 – 5 p.m., 5:30 – 7 p.m. at Serengeti Gallery, Park Central 7919 Central Avenue, Capital Heights, MD. Cost $5
- “Shirletta Settles Sings,” Sunday, Sept. 25, 6 – 8 p.m. at Alice’s Jazz and Cultural Society, 2813 12th Street NE. $5 Contact: http://jazzandculturalsociety.com
- “Blue Monday Blues” presents Nadine Ray and the All Stars. Monday, Sept. 26, 9 p.m. at Westminster Church, General Admission $5
- Book-signing: “The Underground Railroad” (2016). Colson Whitehead’s recent novel is the latest Oprah’s Book Club pick, Author Colson Whitehead. Thursday, Sept. 29 at 8 p.m. at Politics and Prose Book Store, 5015 Connecticut Ave NW. Contacts: email@example.com’ firstname.lastname@example.org; 202-364-1919
- Exhibit: “The Journey to be Free: Self –emancipation and Alexandria’s Contraband Heritage.” Running from August 30 – September 30 at Alexandria’s Black History Museum, 902 Wythe Street, Alexandria, VA , 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Contact: http://www.visitalexandriava.com
- Exhibit: Artist Talk Exhibit: The Peter Robinson Collection. Running from September 10 – 24 at Howard University’s Blackburn Center’s Fine Art Gallery, 2397 6th St NW. Contact: Colcafe@msn.com; 202-903-6179