2020 has been a year like no other in our recent memory. Between the national health pandemic and the ongoing fight for racial justice and equality, the country has been shaken to its core. More than 250,000 people have died from COVID-19 and the number increases on a daily basis. People continue to take to the streets to fight against structures based on white supremacy and the continued oppression of people of color.
The Smithsonian’s first priority over the past 10 months (and continues to be), has been the safety of our staff and visitors. We closed on our doors in March, but did not stop thinking about how to best serve our community. The staff of the Anacostia Community Museum sprung into action developing opportunities for people to share their experiences with both the pandemic and the racial unrest through our online initiative, “Moments of Resilience.” The stories reflected the small moments of joy people were finding during periods of despair. In last month’s column you heard from the museum’s new Associate Director of Education, Andrea Jones, who wrote about the virtual programs, “Inspire Action” and “Take Time Thursdays” designed to provide both information as well as an opportunity to rejoice and recharge.
When I wrote my column back in May 2020, I wrote that I was energized by ACM’s potential to continue serving the needs of our community and remain so as we enter 2021. Though the museum will start the year with closed doors, we will have some wonderful new programs and exhibits to share with you both virtually and out in the community. Before the pandemic, ACM had started working with community organizations to place satellite exhibits. The first one was with the DC Public Library who housed small versions of our exhibit, “A Right to the City,” which looked at change in six DC neighborhoods in the mid 20th century. In 2021, we are happy to continue working with neighborhood organizations to present our latest exhibit, Men of Change: Taking it to the Streets, focused on African American men. More details to come in January.
The last year has also challenged us as a museum staff to think about how we can best bring to life our vision to create a more equitable future for all. The racial disparities that were exposed in 2020 will continue to be an issue in 2021 and the museum is ready to take the lead in providing opportunities for both dialogue and action. The museum will be kicking off a five-year initiative entitled, Transforming America which will examine different issues through the lens of race. In 2021 we will focus on food history, culture, and justice and how race continues to play a role in food insecurity in the DC region and beyond. Through indoor and outdoor exhibits and programs, we will tell the history of food production, the impact COVID-19 has had on communities already experiencing food insecurity, and stories of essential workers on the front lines of grocery stores and farms.
As we close out 2020, I want to thank the DC community and all of our partners on both sides of the river who have worked with us over the past year to bring you engaging programs and exhibits, both online and virtual. Our partnerships are what make us a member of the community and are integral to our success. We look forward to continuing past relationships and developing new ones in 2021. From all of the staff at the Anacostia Community Museum, we wish you a happy holiday season and look forward to seeing you in 2021.