North Brentwood, a small Maryland town founded in 1924, proclaims itself as the first African-American incorporated town in Prince George’s County.
Unbeknownst to some visitors, the town of less than 600 people also has a 5,000-square-foot structure known as the Prince George’s African American Museum and Cultural Center.
Museum officials held a reception Friday, Oct. 14 inside the one-story building with three galleries showcasing local artwork and other artifacts.
The event kicked off the “Through their Eyes — Art, Education and Influence” exhibit that features artists who are alumni from center and visual performing arts programs at Suitland and Northwestern high schools, including Rush Baker, the son of County Executive Rushern L. Baker III.
The exhibit, which will be the subject of panel discussion next month, will continue until Jan. 31.
Those want to visit the free museum on Rhode Island Avenue can do so from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. However, tours are $5 per adult at 12 p.m. and 3 p.m.
With the recent opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in D.C., the North Brentwood establishment is strictly a local thing.
“We are not a Smithsonian Museum telling a national story, but we are a community museum that’s dedicated to sharing our stories,” said a narrator of a minutelong online promotional video.
Meanwhile, the museum has entered a three-year agreement with the county’s public school system to present youth events and after-school programs in 40 schools.
Chanel Compton, executive director of the Prince George’s institution, recently shared a few thoughts via email with The Washington Informer about the museum:
What are some of the artwork and artifacts showcased at the museum?
In our permanent collection are 850 artifacts and historical documents chronicling local African-American achievements and history in Prince George’s County, [including Radio One Founder] Cathy Hughes’ WOL call letters when she had a station in Lanham, artwork by local artists [and] artifacts from the Quander family, an African-American family that dates back to the 1700s in Prince George’s County. Parts of the home of Portia Pittman (daughter of Booker T. Washington) and her husband William Pittman (a renowned African-American architect).
What do you hope people will take away after visiting the museum?
Visitors are able to connect to the history of their local neighborhoods and be personally empowered and inspired by this history.
What are some of the future events for the museum?
Our next exhibit and program series, “Chocolate Cities,” explores the history and state of black urban enclaves across the region [that] opens in February. Our teen after-school program, “Culture Keepers,” is hosting a youth conference in June at the Clarice Smith Performing Art Center [at the University of Maryland in College Park].
How can this museum influence the county?
We promote local talent and support a new generation of community leaders as an institution for cultural preservation and advancement. Museums are a resource for community building, education and creative expression.