‘A Right to the City’ Exhibit Retells Changes in Washington, D.C. Communities

Arthur Cribbs, Howard University News Service

People in the Washington, D.C. area can learn about the city’s history through an exhibit entitled “A Right to the City.” For nearly the past year, the Anacostia Community Museum hosted the exhibit but as the museum undergoes renovations, which began on March 15 and expects to last until the middle of October, “A Right to the City” will be showcased in several public libraries in the area.

The exhibit provides detailed profiles of several Washington D.C. communities, including Adams Morgan, Anacostia, Brookland, Chinatown, Shaw, and Southwest D.C. It provides images, videos, written pieces and artifacts from these respective neighborhoods, highlighting historic moments in the city’s history including a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as Cardozo High School and articles about the relocation of Chinatown.

Several of the exhibition pieces tell the story from the perspective of city residents and how their actions shaped the city. Recurring themes in the exhibit include resisting gentrification, protesting for the rights of local businesses and supporting schools.

Public and government affairs specialist for the museum, Marcia Baird Burris discussed the history of gentrification and changes made throughout Washington over the past several decades. She said, “Various neighborhoods confronted the idea of community change and how they dealt with changes they weren’t comfortable with, and so there are various angles and various perspectives. The curator, in doing the exhibition, is posing the question: Do people have a right to the city?”

With a free admission to view the exhibit, several people have flocked to learn about the history of Washington, D.C.

Resident Daniel Dixon was impressed and inspired by the exhibit. “People have built this city and built a culture and businesses that I am benefitting from now. I need to honor and respect the hard work and sacrifices of other people.”

Resident Matthias Martin found the Adams Morgan exhibit particularly fascinating. He said, “I spend much of my time there and I am involved in several activities in the community. I found it interesting that I have walked past Marie Reed Elementary School, but I finally learned about her impact at this exhibit.”

As the Anacostia Community Museum goes through its renovation process, public libraries in Anacostia, Mt. Pleasant, Shaw and Woodridge are hosting parts of the exhibit. Each library displays a specific neighborhood and is accompanied by a community-related program.

The museum, which first opened in 1967, has hosted this specific exhibit since April of last year. As the only Smithsonian museum located in the city’s Eighth Ward, it will undergo renovations worth $3.5 million to improve its accessibility, appeal, and infrastructure.

Once the exhibition returns to the Anacostia Community Museum, “A Right to the City” will be on display until April 2020.