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Local museum revives spirit of ‘Chocolate City,’ preserves history and culture

festival photo 2NORTH BRENTWOOD – Prince George’s African American Museum and Cultural Center (PGAAMCC) is located within the first municipality in Prince George’s County which was incorporated by African Americans.

North Brentwood is the home of this unique destination where the community is invited to feel inspired by the cultivation and preservation of the cultural and artistic contributions of African Americans in Prince George’s County.

Not everyone may be aware of how much history is being preserved through PGAAMCC’s programs, events and exhibitions that are unveiled at 4519 Rhode Island Ave. However, the museum’s reach is increasing in unique ways, including through artistic exploration of history and social justice.

Chanel Compton, executive director of PGAAMCC, explained that the museum is now more visible than ever through partnerships and new endeavors.

Exhibitions and public events such as Family Day: A Taste of Chocolate City (“Family Day”) will be held on July 1 from 2-6 p.m. It is just one example of how the community is invited to come together to revisit the term ‘Chocolate City,’ which was coined by local radio personalities in the 1970s. The expression of confident blackness is being revived through PGAAMCC’s eclectic exhibition series, “Chocolate Cities: The History, Legacy and Sustainability of African American Enclaves (Chocolate Cities).” This next key event in the lineup may be an ideal time to connect with a local museum while celebrating an era when black people were in the majority and had strength within Washington, DC.

“We have arts activities, activities for children, music and entertainment,” said Laura Perez, director of education and programs for PGAAMCC, while explaining what will be offered to the public on July 1. “We always have a moon bounce, which of course the kids enjoy. We also have activities for adults as well. It’s really a community building event and an opportunity to come together.

“‘Chocolate Cities’ will be featuring different elements of DMV culture, so outside of the activities for young people where the kids can come and have a good time, they can also learn something new. And as far as activities for adults, we have a vendor market. It’s all black-owned businesses that are from the area, and then with ‘A Taste of Chocolate City,’ we’ll have black-owned food vendors as well so people get to experience some great food, great art and culture. This year it really is going to be an all-ages celebration of black art, history and culture in the DMV area, and of course in Prince George’s County.”

Compton said that diasporic conversations connected to ‘Chocolate Cities’ are not new or novel. Black community life and cultural preservation are ongoing topics. However, ‘Chocolate Cities’ was originally a panel discussion proposed by a local nonprofit called Chocolate Redux. The larger exhibition series and programming were aspects tied to a natural evolution.

Youth have also had prominent roles in the series. Perez added that in addition to an academic, youth-led conference, a youth exhibition show consisting of the art work of 20 students who are enrolled in PGAAMCC’s Culture Keeper after-school program opened on June 1. Ninth through 12th graders who attend Northwestern, Suitland and Dr. Henry A. Wise, Jr. high schools researched historically African American counties, neighborhoods and cities.

“(Students have) been working all school year long under the guidance of our teaching artist and scholar in residence, and they’ve been doing research, engaging in discussions, and creating scholarly presentations, as well as artwork all surrounding the theme of ‘Chocolate Cities,’” Perez said. “This exhibition features a number of different mediums. There are video installations, mixed media pieces and a few other mediums as well, and we have one student who created a political comic book.

“Something that we find very powerful for (Culture Keeper) students is just the idea that the work they do is relevant not only to their peers, or to other young people, but it’s relevant intergenerationally. A lot of our events, in fact the majority of our events, are very intergenerational. We have people who bring their kids, and then we have elders who attend who are in their 90s, so our audience really runs the gamut as far as age, so really the target audience is all ages. This exhibition will be on display in our gallery throughout the summer.”      

Compton also said the museum is evolving and she is inspired by PGAAMCC’s work every day. According to Compton, it was great foundational work which began with the previous executive director and board members. They gave the museum an amazing platform to accomplish more innovative, dynamic and impactful programming, and to increase their community reach.

“(The museum is) a beautiful space and venue and has a great location in North Brentwood,” Compton said. “We’re really taking advantage of the space that we have and the huge network of community supporters to partner with us and to help implement socially and culturally relevant programming.”

A film festival series this summer, monthly film screenings which will be held from June through September, and a First Friday event in September have also been integrated into the ‘Chocolate Cities’ theme. Conversations, food, performances and multi-generational traditions are expected to continue during a Rated PG Black Arts Festival featuring black women on Oct. 7. Two new exhibitions will also open.

Please visit www.pgaamcc.org for more information about PGAAMCC’s upcoming events or register for ‘Family Day’ via Eventbrite. Registration is encouraged for the free event, although it is not mandatory.

Shawnmstoryflyer

Last modified onWednesday, 14 June 2017 15:45
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