Black Experience

Watch Parties Highlight Museum’s Opening Week

The grand opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture is upon the world and with anticipation now at a fever pitch for the Sept. 24 official unveiling, museum officials have launched “Lift Every Voice,” a global initiative that highlights organizations celebrating the opening worldwide.

Registered events — specifically a host of planned watch parties — and other activities may occur any time within the inaugural year, and numerous international locations are already joining in, including New Providence, Bahamas; Ontario, Canada; Al Bahr al Ahmar, Egypt; Panama; Port of Spain, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Meanwhile, multiple cities throughout the United States will hold watch parties, including one locally that will be hosted by the BDPA of Greater Washington, D.C., a trade organization that was founded nearly 40 years ago to bridge digital divides, cyber security, information technology and telecommunications competency gaps in urban and underserved communities within the D.C. region.

In all, tens of thousands of visitors are expected to attend the official opening of the Smithsonian’s newest museum with parties, festivals and other events.

More than 150,000 individuals are expected to attend the dedication ceremony on Sept. 24, including President Barack Obama.

WTOP reported that a welcoming committee also has planned a citywide celebration.

“We’re welcoming the new kid to the block,” Frank Smith, co-host of the D.C. Host Committee and founding director of the African American Civil War Memorial Museum, told the popular radio station.

Smith said the many events planned will draw the new museum’s crowds out into the city’s neighborhoods, like U Street, which was once known as “Black Broadway.”

“You can do a lot on the Mall, but you can’t do Ben’s [Chili Bowl)], you can’t do the Florida Avenue Grill, you can’t do oohs and ahs,” Smith said.

The new museum will raise the profile of African-American contributions to history, and there’s been a long wait for the institution, he said. “It’s taken us nearly 100 years to build this monument on the mall, and we are underrepresented in presentations on the mall. We’re happy to have this new museum among our ranks because among other things, they will increase the amount of African-American participation in our museum community in Washington, D.C.”

John Franklin, director of partnerships for the Museum of African American History and Culture, said opening day will be a huge deal.

“Consider this on the scale of a small inauguration,” Franklin said.

Obama will cut the ribbon on the National Mall and a musical prelude is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. with a dedication ceremony to follow at 10 a.m.

Jumbotrons will be set up outside, and the public is invited to watch from the grounds of the Washington Monument nearby.

More than 25 watch parties are already scheduled at multiple sites in all 8 wards in D.C. The planned watch parties range from the African American Civil War Memorial Museum to the Church of Scientology to the Academy for Ideal Education.

A three-day festival is also planned that weekend on the Washington Monument grounds featuring performances by The Roots and Public Enemy plus storytelling, dance performances, food, workshops and more.

The Civil War Memorial Museum, on Vermont Avenue NW just off U Street, will offer free shuttles between the museum and the mall.

But the celebrations will begin even before opening day.

“We’ll have a foot-stompin’ celebration at Shiloh [Baptist Church],” Smith said. That event is set for 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18.

That same day, a Black Love United & Vision Festival is planned at St. Elizabeth’s East Gateway D.C. Pavilion. On Sept. 22, an official welcome reception will be held at the Civil War Museum.

For those hoping to visit the museum that first weekend, two rounds of advance tickets were quickly distributed. Same-day passes will be available beginning Monday, Sept. 26.

Franklin also provided a sneak peak of what visitors will see once they have the chance to visit.

Items on display will include a bow tie and lace handkerchief belonging to abolitionist and legendary Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman, the slave revolt leader Nat Turner and a training plane used by the Tuskegee Airmen.

More than half of the objects in the new collection were provided by individuals and families, Franklin said.

“People have given their treasures from around the country,” he said.

For a complete list of events, visit DCHost.org.

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Stacy M. Brown

I’ve worked for the Daily News of Los Angeles, the L.A. Times, Gannet and the Times-Tribune and have contributed to the Pocono Record, the New York Post and the New York Times. Television news opportunities have included: NBC, MSNBC, Scarborough Country, the Abrams Report, Today, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, Imus in the Morning and Anderson Cooper 360. Radio programs like the Wendy Williams Experience, Tom Joyner Morning Show and the Howard Stern Show have also provided me the chance to share my views.

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