I am Asantewa Boakyewa. I am a sixth-generation Washingtonian, attending primary school at one of the nation’s oldest independent African-centered schools, Ujamaa Shule. I graduated from DuVal High School in nearby Prince George’s County, Maryland, and am an alumna of Morgan State University. I began my professional career at Johns Hopkins University working on the Diaspora Pathways Archival Access Project, a project that sought to preserve and make publicly accessible the archives of the Afro-American newspaper. It was from this transformative experience that my interest and work in museums, public history, and public art were cultivated and launched. Since Johns Hopkins, I have held curatorial, research, and administrative appointments at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture, Georgetown University, American University, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. My work is rooted in African American art and history with interest in artists, stories, and histories that underscore communal bonds and highlight collective power. I am deeply committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion in museums.
I joined the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum in August 2021 as Associate Director of Collections & Exhibitions, overseeing the curatorial, research, and collections units of the museum. I am passionate about building on the historic legacy of John Kinard, Louise Hutchinson, and those visionaries of the recent past to contribute to change leadership and innovation now as the museum charts a new path forward. Innovation is underway at the museum on many fronts, from expanding our exhibits and programs beyond the museum’s walls to making our collection more publicly accessible and centering environmental justice as a vital part of everyday life.
What I am most excited about is situating the museum’s exhibitions, collections, and research programs to support amplifying the role of a community-based museum in the twenty-first century. Expanding the community-collecting approach that the museum pioneered by harnessing existing relationships that museum staff have built over decades, while also forging new introductions to those who have never knew of or engaged with the museum before. Expanding the role of a community-based museum also means inviting the community to have a voice in evaluating our successes and where we can improve. It means broadening the scope of the stories we help share and inviting new and equitable voices. It is about creating through our exhibits in the museum, outdoors, online and across the city immersive visitor experiences that are multi-dimensional. Where people — whether they are from Anacostia, the greater region, or not, can see themselves and their stories and feel a sense of connection — even when those stories expose deep injustices.
In this current pandemic era, the way we gather and share as families, as communities, has been so drastically upended. I am invested with my colleagues and with you the public in making sure that the work produced by the Anacostia Community Museum for and with our neighbors near and far can feel like our collective cultural home.