Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cool Reads and Funky Beads

African Inspired Jewelry At Tonight's Live to Read Event

If you are looking for a different type of happy hour at which to unwind after work tonight, come to Shaw's Ghana Cafe. The Humanities Council will host "Cool Reads and Funky Beads" at the eatery with all proceeds going to support Live to Read, Washington, DC's city-wide celebration of literature. A $20 ticket (available here) buys a drink ticket and a copy of this year's Live to Read selection, Ruined by Lynn Nottage. All proceeds from the $20 tickets will support the Humanities Council and programs like Live to Read, and Ghana Cafe will also contribute a portion of the revenue from select menu items. 

Renowned jewelry artist, Elaine Robnett Moore will also be on hand to discuss and sell her artwork. Moore will also contribute a portion of her proceeds to the Humanities Council. Her interest in beadwork began when she served as an international consultant in West Africa, and her jewelry reflects a confluence of the spiritual significance of the beads, her travel experiences, and her deely felt African American heritage. For more information on Moore and her work visit her website at

After reading your copy of the book, remember to check out the rest of this year's Live to Read events including a book and film discussions at the Southwest Library, a lecture at the German Historical Society on Ghanaian civil rights activism, and the ongoing performance of Ruined at Arena Stage.  

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Of Shrines, Talking Drums & Religioius Chants: Santería in DC

Footage From Last Year's Panel Discussion and Performance Now Available on HCTV

Last Summer, the Smithsonian Latino Center held a workshop at the GALA Theatre in Columbia Heights to discuss an often overlooked part of Washington, DC's cultural heritage. A panel of scholars, artists, performers, and practitioners traded stories about Santería and Afro-Cuban music and dance entitled Of Shrines, Talking Drums, & Religious Chants: Santeria in D.C. 

Since the 1950s, the practice and the sense of community associated with these traditions has emanated from a single house on Parkwood Place, NW. The house's current owner, Eloy Hernandez described the building's early role in fostering a sense of camaraderie among the Cuban immigrants who came to DC throughout the latter 20th century, and he and his wife's current efforts to pass traditions on to new generations. 

Other panelists included: Dr. Elaine Peňa, the professor responsible for conducting much of the history research; Smithsonian ethnologist James Early; Smithsonian curator Michael Mason; and Afro-Cuban musician and dancer Oscar Rousseaux. Footage from the event will be archived at the Smithsonian, and is meant to serve as a “living document” that will be used to supplement a written essay to be developed on the subject. 

To close the program, Rousseaux led a talented group of Afro-Cuban musicians, while carefully describing the significance of the instruments used and the chants performed. A brief compilation of the footage is available below and on the Humanities Council's Youtube Channel, but it is well worth viewing the film in its uncut form (coming soon to the DC Digital Museum). Dr. Peňa and the other panelists make a convincing case that sites like the Parkwood Place house serve as focal points for underrepresented cultures; their relative obscurity leading to a paradoxical cultural persistence unusual in a constantly changing urban setting.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Courageous Vision II

More Poetry From Last Week's Live To Read Event

Artwork from Courageous Vision at the P Street, NW Whole Foods

My Philosophy of Life
Dale Demonia a.k.a. MC Lord D

To live is to fly like an eagle
and let your spirit run free
and climbing the highest mountains
and reaching your destiny
and never ever looking back
for you may take a fall
and always praise your almighty God
spreading inspiration wherever you may go,
telling all the people things
what they really need to know
like getting out of the fast lane and taking it slow
life will last a long long time
if we live it slowly in our mind
Life is beautiful it's a gift from God,
that's why we live it softly but not too hard.
To live is to be happy with our heart full of joy
and sometimes living our lives like a fairy story
and always climbing up to the highest height
and working through the day
and making heavenly love at night.
But life does have its ups and downs
that's why we should keep our heads to the sky
and wipe away frowns
and never ever putting anyone down
and live our life proudly like a king wears his crown.
To live is to dream life's most beautiful dreams
like standing on a mountain top like Dr. Martin Luther King
and drinking those fresh waters that runs from a stream.
To live is to enjoy ourself like a child enjoys ice cream
and always lending your fellow man a helping helping hand
and showing all God's children just where you stand.
And remember you are one in a billion like a pebble in the sand.
To live is to love, joy, peace, and caring
and whatever we may do to keep ourselves living free
we should always hod to our dignity.
ps. Ther's one thing we must all remember
that life goes on and on
it locks into all eternity every time a child is born.

Written by me, MC Lord D

About Live to Read

This series of programs is the Humanities Council's annual celebration of literature and city-wide read. All Washingtonians are encouraged to participate in the series of discussions, workshops, and live performances held by the HCWDC and its partners which focus on a single work of fiction.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Courageous Vision

Poetry From the Miriam's Kitchen Art Therapy Exhibition

Last night's Live to Read event was a great success. Artists from Miriam's kitchen displayed their works and read poetry inspired by the Lynn Nottage's Ruined, and its persistent theme of courage. Below is the exhibition statement written by Kate Baasch, Miriam's Kitchen's art therapist, and a poem by James Morris.

Artwork from the exhibition.

Courageous Vision - Kate Baasch, MA Art Therapy
The Miriam's Kitchen community is proud to participate in this year's Live to Read. Our partnership with the Humanities Council of Washington, DC and the P Street Whole Foods brings our community together in unprecedented ways- and we invite you to join us. This year's literary selection, Ruined, a play by Lynn Nottage, has encouraged the artists and poets who utilize Miriam's Studio to engage in on-going explorations of what courage means thematically and practically. Through artwork and writing, the artists, writers, and staff of Miriam's Kitchen have delved into the complexities of Nottage's play. The artworks on display here can be thought of as visual records of artists' reflecting, offering, and responding to the challenge Ruined presents us all: What is courage, and what does courage mean in this play; in the torn setting of the Congo; in our own country; in our lives?

What is Courage
James Morris

Courage, oh Courage, the dictionary says your
origin is France and Rome, Romance Languages
indeed. You began with the concept of hear or
spirit, now you have an English accent of
enduring pain and suffering, not romantic at all.

But, you are still the driving spirit of life.
Those you bless are indestructible. A soldier
touched by you finds enemies hiding in fear not
wanting to feel pain or suffer. Mediocre is not seen when you appear

Cupid, another romantic idea, makes people
embrace, such an easy affair. But when
your sword is raised and put in the hands of
your chosen, his training and more shine
bright accomplishing impossible feats.

But soldiers are not your only vehicle. Teachers,
police, firemen, politicians, social workers and
even fallen heroes that suddenly leap from
the Grim Reaper's cycle like a boxer at the
count of ten.

Many many more heroes abound in all walks
of life. Anybody who can still breathe can
suddenly feel your spirit, and even
if fallen by life's fickle choices
will come roaring back to life
and avoid the final crash.

ALL HAIL MOST honorable

Check out more of Morris' work at .

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Live to Read Selection Inspires Art and Poetry

Don't miss this exciting blend of literature and art!

After reading Ruined by Lynn Nottage, participants in the Miriam's Kitchen art therapy program created works reflecting the play's themes and imagery. The exhibition entitled, Courageous Vision, will be on display this evening at the Shaw Whole Foods on P Street, NW. The third and final exhibition of the art show will commence at the Georgetown Whole Foods on Thursday, April 28th. Both events are completely free and do not require registration.

About Miriam's Kitchen
Miriam's Kitchen was founded in 1983 by a collaboration of The George Washington University Hillel Student Association, Western Presbyterian Church and United Church in response to an urgent need for services for the homeless in Washington, DC. Our mission is to provide individualized services that address the causes and consequences of homelessness in an atmosphere of dignity and respect, both directly and through facilitating connections in Washington, DC. We provide free, homemade meals and high-quality support services to more than 4,000 homeless men and women each year through our core programs: Meals, Case Management, Miriam's Studio, and Miriam's Cafe.

This series of programs is the Humanities Council's annual celebration of literature and city-wide read. All Washingtonians are encouraged to participate in the series of discussions, workshops, and live performances held by the HCWDC and its partners which focus on a single work of fiction. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Remembering the Black Fashion Museum

Collection Will Reemerge as Part of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

The Black Fashion Museum was founded in 1979 by Lois Alexander Lane in a Harlem brownstone. Lane was a dedicated fundraiser and curator, and managed to expand her wealth of culturally and socially significant artifacts for nearly 30 years. In 1994, the museum moved to Washington, DC where Lane eventually established it in a one hundred year old row house at 2007 Vermont Ave, NW - just around the corner from the Humanities Council. After Lane's death, her daughter Joyce Bailey sought to continue her mother's efforts to expand the organization's collection and reach, but the cache of dresses, coats, hats, and other garments designed and sewn by slaves, famed Hollywood designers, Civil Rights leaders, and First Ladies' seamstresses, had begun to outgrow the Vermont Avenue facility. In 2007 Bailey donated the important collection of Americana to the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

This episode of Humanities Salon honors Anne Lowe, a noted African American clothing designer who created Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy's iconic wedding dress in 1953. It was filmed at the Black Fashion Museum in 2002, and includes several notable panelists including Lowe's great granddaughter and Washington Post fashion editor Robin Ghivan. Ghivan wrote an outstanding article on the Black Fashion Museum and its important, yet overlooked, collection in 2007, as it was moved to the secure and climate-controlled facilities of the Smithsonian.

The National Museum of African American History and culture is scheduled to open in 2015.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Books that Speak Volumes: Reading by Sound and Touch

"Talking Books" At the Library of Congress

Last month, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped at the Library of Congress celebrated their 80th Anniversary. Thanks to Steve Prine, Monica Goldenberg, and the NLS staff for this excellent guest blog post.

Dr. James H. Billington, Librarian of
Congress spoke at the 80th
Anniversary Ceremony.
By Steve Prine, Assistant Chief, Network Division
National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress

For many of us, reading is a favorite pastime. Books have the power to take us to faraway places, spark our imaginations, empower us with knowledge, and stimulate our minds. For individuals with blindness, low vision, or physical disabilities, however, reading regular print can be challenging—or impossible.
As an avid reader, it’s hard for me to imagine life without books, which is why I’m proud to work for the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress, an organization that helps ensure everyone can experience the joys of reading.
NLS provides a free library service that delivers digitally recorded audiobooks, special playback equipment, and braille books to eligible individuals at no cost to them. The books are circulated through the U.S. Postal Service by a national network of libraries serving blind and physically disabled people. Any person of any age who is unable to read regular print as a result of blindness, low vision, or physical handicap is eligible for the program.
On March 3, 2011, we celebrated the 80th anniversary of this amazing program.  Starting with just 19 libraries in 1931, NLS now has 113 network libraries nationwide and in the U.S. territories. NLS also has a long history of innovation resulting from its efforts to use the latest technology to ensure its patrons have access to the same materials enjoyed by their sighted peers. Today’s digital talking-book players and books on cartridge include tactile features and improved sound quality that allow for easy reading and an enhanced user experience.
Indeed, through eight decades, our patrons’ experience has remained central to everything we do. Our collection of books is no exception, offering something to entice even the most discriminating readers. Patrons can choose from more than 320,000 titles, including bestsellers, mysteries, thrillers, literature, biographies—even children’s books. A growing number of titles are available in Spanish. Many books and magazines are also available for download over the Internet through the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) service (
This month—and throughout the coming year—as we celebrate our history, we also look forward to the future and our continued commitment to making sure that the joys of reading can be experienced by all. The next chapter for NLS truly does start with those who need this free library service.  
To learn about talking and braille books or request an application, call 1-888-NLS-READ (1-888-657-7323) or visit  

Monday, April 11, 2011

Celebrate Emancipation Day in DC

Pick Up a Guide, Watch the Documentary, and Check Out an Event

On April 16, 1862, Abraham Lincoln signed the Compensated Emancipation Act which abolished slavery in the District of Columbia. The legislation compensated slave owners for the freedom of approximately 3,100 people, and many refugees swelled the District population as news of the law reached the countryside. Initially, Washingtonians routinely commemorated the occasion with great fervor, but the annual celebrations lost their popularity following the Reconstruction period, and did not see a significant revival until the early 2000s. Today, the District Government, organizations like the Humanities Council, and community leaders collaborate with District residents to, once again, make this holiday an important Spring event. This year, the DC Office of Public Records, in collaboration with a host of partner organizations, has created an impressive schedule of forums, performances, screenings, and ceremonial remembrances. Click here to view the full schedule and participate in the celebration!

Several years ago, the Humanities Council worked with the DC Office of Public Records to produce a booklet called “Ending Slavery in the Nation's Capital.” The handy publication is a must-have resources for those interested in Washington, DC's African American history, and unique path to emancipation. The booklet is available for download as a PDF on the District Government's website and is part of the DC Digital Museum. Print a copy of the pocket sized guide and use it as a reference as you make your way around the celebration sites this week.

The Humanities Council also collaborated with the DC Office of Cable Television to produce an outstanding documentary which examines slave life, emancipation, and the disastrous return of oppression following the Reconstruction Period. This film is also part of the DC Digital Museum Collection and can be viewed on HCTV, the Humanities Council's Youtube Channel. Additionally, the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site will screen the film all day on April 16th as part of DC's Emancipation Day celebration.

As the Civil War ravaged the region surrounding the National Capital, many slaves took the opportunity to self-emancipate. In areas controlled by the Union Army, these individuals were eventually dubbed “contrabands of war” and received some measure of protection from slave catchers and bounty hunters, but following a fast marching military force was unsustainable for many families, and as news of DC's Compensated Emancipation Act spread, more and more freed people settled within the confines of the District. These refugees established several “contraband camps” throughout the city; informally at first, but after the creation of the Freedman's Bureau, the Federal Government began registering the inhabitants of these villages within the city, creating lists such as this one held in the Alexandria, Virginia Library Special Collection.
Camp Barker Resident List Courtesy Alexandria Library Special Collections

Camp Barker was located on what is now Logan Circle in Washington, DC. Though the physical remnants of the temporary camps have long-since disappeared, their existence in the District has contributed to a persistent sense of community and pride.

Leave a comment and let us know how you are celebrating Emancipation Day in DC!