Washington DC is known for being the the US capital and for it’s museums, most of which are free. So last week I took it upon myself to visit as many museums as physically possible. As well as being a documentary maker, performance poet and currently a Spoken Word Educator I am also involved with Nottingham Black Archive (NBA) and have a keen interest in the history of Africa & it’s diaspora.
NBA is dedicated to researching, collecting and preserving black history, heritage and culture in Nottingham, from the earliest time to the present day, we have recently completed a project “No Tears For Me My Mother’ that celebrated Black service personnel in WWII, which resulted a number of resources being produced; a book, an exhibition, a website, a learning resource and a documentary, that I was tasked to produce.
I used my time in Washington DC to visit various archives and museums to explore how they present their artifacts & resources to the community and feed what I have seen and learnt to the NBA team.
A highlight from my museum tours was the Museum of African Art which is celebrating 50th anniversary. I enjoyed the ‘Earth Matters: Land as Material and Metaphor in the Arts of Africa’ exhibition that included works and a documentary exploring the career of Senegalese sculptor Ousmane Sow.
Other museums I visited include, The Museum of Asian art, The Native American Museum, The Air Space Museum, the Botanical Gardens, The American History Museum and I also visited Capitol Building, The White House.
I spent most of mu time inside museums so don’t actually feel like i really got to see and feel the city, unlike Chicago where I was able to immerse myself in various communities I was unable to do this in Washington DC. My only real opportunity to interact with Washington Residence came from Servas. I stayed with a wonderful, welcoming and very busy Russian family in the suburb Rockville, who won a green card and came to live in the States two years ago. I became quiet close to their cat, who has a Russian name I have know idea how to pronounce- the names translates to red wine. Red Wine is a hunched backed, deaf, 18 year old cat with the loudest meow I have ever heard, who must of thought my sole purpose in life was to stroke her…at any time of day or night. I slept quite comfortably on an inflated mattress, until Red wine decided it was time for a stroke- her meow sounded like a 3 year old child screaming- quite intense!!!
I also stayed with a young woman woman, Abby who lived closer to town near to the Georgina Avenue area, usually Servas hosts are retired, but my Servas host was 28 so it was a real pleasure to be shown around by some close to my age. Abby invited me to join here at a monthly trivia night organised by a friend in a book shop called Politics and Prose. I was amazed to see how many people came to take part in a trivia night, people from all age groups and ethnicities. I had my reservation at first but throughly enjoyed myself. It was a great event to have in a book shop.
On my last day in Washington while iI was hunting for a bunch of thank you flowers for Abby, I stumbled across the greatest thing I think Washington DC has to offer (me, at last) …Sankofa the book/film shop that specializes in African book and films. Sankofa not only sells film but makes them, with the post production suit located downstairs. I spent about an hour looking through the vast collection of films and books my purse got lighter after my trip to Sankofa- but it was well worth it. I spent so much the shop keeper gave me a hot chocolate and slice of banana bread for free- there is also a cafe located in the shop. Unfortunately the film maker wasn’t around for me to talk with plus i discovered Sankofa 2 hours before I was due to fly to Boston.
Things i will always remember from Washington DC…
a crazy hunch-backed deaf cat with an operatic meow,
a trivia night in a book shop.
The first time it was warm and I was able to wear something other than my Dr Martins!