The District of Columbia administration, led by a host committee, announced the events that will celebrate the grand opening of the nation’s first national African-American museum.
The Cadillac of Rock and Roll pioneer Chuck Berry is one of the exhibits featured in the new Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture. The museum is scheduled to officially open on Sept. 24. (Photo by Rob Roberts)
A string of District community events will celebrate the opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture, scheduled for Sept. 24. The host committee is being co-led by Frank Smith, the founding director of the African American Civil War Memorial Museum, and Charles Hicks, chair of the D.C. Black History Celebration Committee, an organization that works to promote African-American history programs and events in the city.
“We’re the welcome party for the new museum,” Smith said. “Our people are hungry for this information. We’re happy to have this new museum among our ranks because, among other things, will increase the . . . African American participation in our museum community in Washington, D.C., which has traditionally been under-represented.”
On Sept. 24, President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are scheduled to be joined by former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush, and U.S. Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts at the opening ceremonies. President Obama is expected to deliver remarks.
The host committee has scheduled activities from Sept. 18-24. Smith said that children’s activities will be a key component of the events. “Studies have shown that children who visit museums do better in the arts and sciences,” he said.
On Sept. 18, there will be a concert and musical program, “A Historical Odyssey from the Cradle to Liberation” featuring a 200-voice choir including chants, slave songs, and spirituals at the Shiloh Baptist Church, starting at 5 p.m. On Sept. 22, the host committee’s official opening ceremony and reception will take place at the Civil War museum, where D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) will serve as the host. The reception is sponsored by the Phi Sigma chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority.
On the day of the museum opening, there will be a series of watch parties in the District, including: the civil war museum, Ben’s Chili Bowl’s U Street location, Asbury United Methodist Church, and the Florida Avenue Grill starting at 10 a.m. and ending at noon. Later that day, at the Civil War museum from 2:30-3:45 p.m., there will be a theatrical presentation, “Battle Hymn of Freedom,” that was written by Clarence Anthony Bush and tells the story of the Fort Pillar Massacre of 1864 in which more than 300 soldiers were killed.
At 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 25 the host committee will hold a “Drum Circle” event in which drummers can come to Malcolm X Park to drum for the spirit of the ancestors, elders, and youth.
Some organizations will hold events and offer memorabilia that are not directly connected with the host committee or the African-American Museum. For example, the Washington D.C. Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, in concert with the Hillcrest Children and Family Center, will hold a “History Makers Soiree” on Sept. 23 at the headquarters of the American Institute of Architects, with the event starting at 7 p.m.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which manages the Washington, D.C. area’s bus and Metrorail system, said it will offer its customers four limited edition SmartTrip commemorative cards that showcase the museum and icons in African-American history. “Metro’s diverse workforce and ridership reflect the diversity of our region, and we’re honored to play a role in connecting the public to this important new Smithsonian museum,” Metro General Manager/CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld, said.
AT&T is also slated to give $1 million to the museum.
“It’s important to understand the challenges and accomplishments of a culture because it helps us to understand who we are as a country.” David Huntley, senior executive vice president and chief compliance officer, said in a statement released on Sept. 14.
Douglass Sloan, a District political activist and commentator would like to take his family to attend the opening ceremony, but has a problem. “I need to get some tickets,” Sloan told the AFRO. “I would love to see the museum because it will show the rich history of African Americans. I commend the people who organized the museum for their time and efforts.”
While Sloan wants a ticket, Bowie, Md., resident Paul Brathwaite is already set. He said his family “will be at the dedication on Sept. 24.”
“I was fortunate enough to work on the legislation to make the museum a reality in 2005 as the executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus,” he told the AFRO. “This is a moment in history to be a part of.”