A Day of Oral History with Anacostia Community Museum
Written by Shannah Cumberbatch
The Anacostia Community Museum is working on an oral history project where eight high school students living in the Anacostia Park community were invited to explore the power of documenting their communities’ history through the lens of Anacostia Park and the Anacostia River. The students have been meeting with and interviewing community residents at various locations throughout the Anacostia Park footprint.
Pearl Eni of the Anacostia Community Museum brought the students to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens to connect with the National Park Service and the Friends of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. Upon arrival, Park Ranger Remi met and guided the students on a park tour. After the tour, students were introduced to Shannah, who spoke about the Friends of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, our work, and how we remain connected to the park’s footprint. Black women represented each organization to allow the students to see individuals who looked like them holding leadership roles within their community.
In addition to the high school students, five community members were present: Dennis Chestnut, Sharita Slayton, Althia Harris, Junel Jeffrey-Kim and VJ Jennings. Following the park tour led by Ranger Remi and a brief introduction to the Friends group from Shannah, each community member introduced themselves and then shared how long they had been living in the area and what brought them to be a part of this project. Students paired off to interview a community member for 50-60 minutes. During these interviews, students were to ask questions to learn more about how each resident was connected to the greater Anacostia Park, which the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens is a part of. The backdrop for the interviews were the display ponds behind the Visitor Center, in keeping with a project that focused on being outdoors among nature.
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