Tag Archives: african american museum

On Tour: Washington, DC

2 Dec

October 24, 2017 | Oil & Water | Washington, DC

It was a long, sad, exhilarating and fascinating day in D.C. I woke up at 6:32am to snag online tickets to the African American Museum knowing it would be one of the highlights of a trip to the Capital. Clicking through the time options 10am: Not available. 10:30: Not available. 11am Not Available… finally, 12:30pm 2 tickets available! I felt like I had won the lottery.

When we arrived at the gorgeous bronze laced building, I was full of anticipation. It’s really a jewel on the Mall. With the current and historical racial tension that haunts D.C., this new space on the national lawn feels sacred. The museum does not disappoint. In fact, it over-delivers. It’s so chock-a-block full of information that we only got half way through before I realized we had to run out to get to the sound-check for the Oil & Water screening.

As we raced over to the Atlas Theater, I thought about how this city was built on the backs of African American, who make up 50% of the city’s population, yet this critically important museum was debated for 100 years and only finished last year!

Atlas and new H Street Car

Just outside the Atlas on H Street there was a sign discussing the importance of the theater, a community hub in the vibrant and racially mixed neighborhood. Though it opened as a white-only establishment in the 1930’s, in the 1950’s it became a desegregated venue in a heavily segregated city. After the riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, the Atlas fell into disrepair and closed like many of the businesses in the area. In 2006, the theater was renovated and reopened as part of a larger plan to revitalize the neighborhood.

I’m so glad the theater is back up and running. It’s a beautiful space and an important part of the community. But I realized from my research about the neighborhood that the tensions aren’t over. Current residents now feel the gentrified street is pushing them further and further away from the city. Conflicts arise from what type of businesses are valued on the street and by whom. Rents are going up. And the new street car is a visible sign of the changes being made to this ever-changing city.

Post provided by On Screen/In Person touring filmmaker Laurel Spellman Smith

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