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Smithsonian honors D.C.ís Ďrootsí

Nationís capital as American hometown to be folklife festival feature

(Published June 5, 2000)


Special to The Common Denominator

The grand city that is our nationís capital holds so much more than the White House, federal buildings and exquisite museums. Washington, D.C., possesses cultural vitality and diversity among its core communities and more than 500,000 residents. This largely unknown side of Washington will be featured for the first time in the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

This yearís 34th annual festival runs June 23-27 and June 30-July 4. The "Washington, D.C.: Itís Our Home" exhibit will be located along the National Mall between Seventh and 14th streets NW and will spill into neighborhoods throughout the District.

The Smithsonian Institution and the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities have coordinated the Washington exhibition to give festival visitors an appreciation for what real D.C. living is all about beyond the well-known national institutions, magnificent monuments and other tourist attractions.

Since the festival began in 1967, it has featured cultural traditions of communities from regions and states such as California, Texas, Oklahoma and Wisconsin, as well as communities from other countries. This year, the festival will focus on Washington to highlight the traditions of people who have lived in the District for generations, as well as people from all over the United States and the world who come to live in Washington and have brought new traditions to the city.

"This program will give people a chance to discover the wealth and riches of our neighborhoods and community institutions," said John Franklin, program manager of the Smithsonian Institutionís Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. Franklin, who also is co-curator for the program, said the program will show people from all over the United States and the world "what is from Washington and what has been created by Washingtonians."

In the past, the Folklife Festival has presented different aspects of Washington such as the music and childrenís traditions, as well as the cultures of African American, Asian American and Caribbean communities within the city. But never before has the District ó or any other city ó been honored as one of the festivalís focal points.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton will speak at the festivalís opening ceremony on June 23. There will be a panel discussion on the importance of the Anacostia and Potomac rivers to D.C. residential living. Neighborhood associations, unions and civil rights organizations will convey environmental concerns, the work done along the rivers and recreational activities that take place near the rivers. The Common Denominatorís editor and publisher, Kathryn Sinzinger, will participate in the D.C. exhibitís opening panel on neighborhood activism.

As Washington is also a working town, journalists, lawyers, lobbyists and transportation and construction workers participating in the festival will host a panel discussion on a broad range of career choices and communicate how to pursue an occupation.

The festival will feature performances by members of the D.C. community. Performances include poetry, jazz, bluegrass and the Districtís own musical invention, go-go. Local musicians scheduled to appear at the festival include the Smooth and Easy Hand Dance Institute and Archie Edwards of the Blues Heritage Foundation. Entertainers also include the Nicki Gonzalez Band, Andrew Cacho African Drummers and Dancers, the Lesbian and Gay Chorus of Washington, D.C., Fugazi, Chuck Brown, Rare Essence and more.

On July 3, there will be a special concert, D.C. Divas, which will celebrate D.C.ís hardest working female vocal artists. The concert will showcase Washingtonís rhythm and blues legend Ruth Brown, Julia Nixon, Michelle Lanchester, Yasmine and Bernice Johnson Reagon and her daughter, Toshi.

A special all-day concert of sacred music, Faithful Fourth, will showcase cultural music from the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and African-based spiritual traditions on Independence Day. The concert will include dance and non-dance music, jazz, blues, gospel choirs and rhythm and blues.

In addition, the exhibit will include food presentations, craft demonstrations, quilting, potters, basket making and piñata makers. There will be exhibits on gardening, boat building and mural painting.

Along with the activities to be held on the Mall, "Washington, D.C.: Itís Our Home" will hold many neighborhood events produced by the arts commission and scheduled throughout the city. Joyful D.C., at Lincoln Theater, features gospel performances by The Union Temple Choir, Reverb, The Curenton Family, and others. Headline acts for Calientel, an outdoors Latin music and dance concert at Marie H. Reed Community Center in Adams Morgan, include Havana Select, Ceniza, Los Funcionarios, and Peligro.

Local jazz talents performing at the Southwest Jazz Jam concert and fish fry at Westminister Church in Southwest include Antonio Parker, Zach Grady, and Michael Thomas.

Other neighborhood events include D.C. Swings, a swing dance party in Georgetown, and Dance Journey: Exploring Dance in D.C. at the Lisner auditorium featuring a compilation of African dance, ballet and Asian dance, among others.

The 2000 Smithsonian Folklife Festival programs also include "El Rio," focusing on cultural interaction along the 2,000-mile Rio Grande basin, and "Tibetan Culture Beyond the Land of Snows," which celebrates traditional Tibetan Culture.

During the festival, callers to (202) 633-9884 can hear a recorded description of daily events. Schedules also will be available on the Mall.

Copyright 2000, The Common Denominator