Anacostia Community Museum 'Reclaims the Edge'

Signature river project learns from mistakes, focuses on urban issues. Photo: "Real Justice"/Photo: Malcolm Lewis Barnes

WASHINGTON, August 17, 2013 – The Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum (ACM) recently opened its first fall signature exhibit called “Reclaiming the Edge,” part of an ambitious mission to distinguish itself from the soon to be built National African American Museum on The Mall.

ACM’s 45th anniversary exhibition marks the public launch of the museum’s new vision, which now focuses on urban communities and the issues that have an impact on them. Their goal is to generate new knowledge, challenge the perception and deepen the understanding of what is seen as the evolving concept of “community.”

Exterior, Anacostia Community Museum, Washington, D.C. (Credit: ACM)

“We spent 18 months team building and tweaking our mission from an Afro Centric focus to one that deals with issues that impact urban communities,” said ACM Director Camille Giraud Akeju.

“Our goal is to make us unique to the community while trying to create a niche for ourselves that would keep us unique within the Smithsonian and in keep us relevant to the community,” she says. “Our current signature exhibit talks about the Anacostia River and its use and misuse over the years, and compares it with other river cities around the globe such as London, Shanghai, Pittsburgh, and Louisville.”

Chairman of the ACM Board Tonya Kinlow shared Director Akeju’s vision of how central the role the Anacostia Community Museum is to the expanded urban focus of the museum.

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ACM Board members, L-R: Bennie Johnson, Host Tonya Kinlow, ACM Director Camille Giraud Akeju, Donna Gambrell and Board Chair Larry Frazier. (Credit: Malcolm Lewis Barnes)

“What is important is that it is a mission-driven institution, one that is off the beaten path where you don’t just stumble across. So it was intentional that I invited you here to the museum,” said Mrs. Kinlow in her remarks to the reception audience. Almost half of the well-heeled crowd raised their hands when asked if this was their first visit.

“Last but not least, I would like you to financially support the museum, and the important work of telling our story and the work can go further,” said Mrs. Kinlow. The museum gets about $1.9 million from the Smithsonian and its annual goal is to match that with $400,000 to $600,000 in private donations.

Anacostia Community Museum staff, L-R: Sharon Reinckens, ACM Deputy Director; David Hall, Administrative Officer; Tykia Rodgers, Director of Advancement; ACM Director Camille Giraud Akeju, Jennelle Cooper Tolson, Public Affairs Specialist/Special Events; Jennifer Morris, Archivist and Marcia Baird Burris, Public Affairs Specialist. (Credit: Malcolm Lewis Barnes)

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A new international exhibit called “UBUHLE WOMEN, Beadwork and the Art of Independence” is opening on December 8, 2013. It concerns a group of women in South Africa who created a cottage industry of beaded quilts to sustain their KwaZulu-Natal community in the southeastern region of the Union of South Africa.

Ongoing ACM activities include a standing series of programs such as the Metro Mamba Drum Circle, which starts as a lecture and ends as a party. It focuses on the Latinos in the diaspora, and their musical influence and contributions. ACM also supports a tour community arts series that includes book signings and a popular Artist’s Studio Tour that takes participants into the Anacostia community to visit artists where they work and live.

Members of the community interested in supporting the mission of the Anacostia Community Museum can also join the board at their 46th Anniversary Luncheon at the National Press Building on September 13th from Noon till 2:00 p.m. The 45th Anniversary Gala Luncheon, whose topic is “Deepening Understanding” will be hosted by Leon Harris and Maureen Bunyon, ABC7/WJLA News Anchors and keynote Speaker Robert Garcia, founding director of The City Project in Los Angeles.

Anacostia Community Museum lawn sculpture entitled “Real Justice.” Commissioned by metal artist Allen Ukizee Nelson 5/26/2004 and dedicated to the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall (Credit: Malcolm Lewis Barnes)

As the tony crowd left the museum several first time visitors commented favorably on the ring of families from the community that surrounded the Sculpture Garden and grounds of the museum. Not only were families enjoying the exhibit inside, but the community was also enjoying the grounds of the museum, which has become an institution that is a part of the fabric of what has become “community” in this part of town.

Getting to the Anacostia Community Museum (ACM): The Smithsonian’s ACM is located at 1901 Fort Place SE, Washington, DC 20020. Hours: Daily 10-5. Closed on Christmas Day.

For more information, call 202-633-4820 or visit ACM’s Web site at:


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Malcolm Lewis Barnes

As a credentialed professional photo journalist, Mr. Barnes writes for the SQUARE BUSINESS journal, served as the Business Editor and columnist for the Washington Informer, and the Community Development writer for The Common Denominator newspaper

Contact Malcolm Lewis Barnes


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