Ben’s Chili Bowl has served Washington, DC’s unique “half-smoke”—a pork and beef sausage—topped with their spicy homemade chili sauce for more than 60 years.
After almost 17 months of closure because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum reopens its doors Friday, Aug. 6, with new visitation guidelines and days and hours of operation and the in-gallery exhibition “Food for the People: Eating & Activism in Greater Washington.” The museum will welcome visitors from 11 a.m.–4 p.m. daily, Tuesday through Saturday, for self-guided tours only, and reservations are requested for groups larger than six. Based on current recommendations from public health officials, museum staff and all visitors ages 2 and older are required to wear face coverings indoors, and persons who are not feeling well should stay home. More details are available at https://anacostia.si.edu/Visit/VisitingTips.
Opening in the museum’s main gallery, the “Food for the People” exhibition joins and powerfully expands on food-equity themes introduced in the outdoor exhibition that has been on view since mid-April 2021. The outdoor exhibition offered a snapshot of key food justice issues in greater Washington highlighting the continuing disparities in access to fresh food across the region and some of the individuals who are working to make the food system more just and sustainable. The gallery exhibition takes a deeper dive. Through images, artifacts, videos and hands-on interactives, it examines the history and present-day realities of the nation’s unequal food system, including the evolution of government policy and community activist responses to hunger, the often invisible labor behind the food supply and how the Washington area is home to both tremendous disparities but also groundbreaking solutions to food injustices. The full exhibition treatment of the topic, outside and in-gallery, is on view until Sept. 17, 2022.
“Given the dynamics of COVID-19 and racial unrest throughout the country, we are more dedicated than ever to uncovering and sharing the voices of the underrepresented,” said Melanie Adams, director of the Anacostia Community Museum. “We did find new ways to connect outdoors and virtually, but in reopening, are pleased to again welcome guests in our galleries and hope this exhibition will both teach and inspire visitors into action against food inequality in their community.”
In response to the pandemic, the museum also opened “Men of Change: Taking it to the Streets,” a Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) exhibition that was reimaged for outdoor presentation in Washington’s Deanwood neighborhood and is closing Aug. 31.
“Food for the People” exhibition highlights include:
- An illustrative journey through the food system of a Washington favorite—a chicken wing—from chick to discarded bones after a meal.
- A discussion about preserving the region’s diverse food cultures from the viewpoint of African Americans and Americans of Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, Salvadorean and Ethiopian descent who are food market and restaurant owners, street vendors and consumers.
- A look back at community-run efforts like the Black Panthers’ Free Breakfast Program for Children, the Community for Creative Non-Violence’s hunger strikes against food waste and the National Welfare Rights Organization headed by Etta Horn, a Barry Farm Dwellings resident who helped push hunger and racism onto the national agenda—all precursors to present-day organizations such as DC Central Kitchen and DC Greens.
- Exploration of historical and present-day inequities faced by the laborers who produce, process and serve the nation’s food—from farm to table—and highlighting the essential work they do, particularly in the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“This exhibition reveals the stark inequalities and inner workings of the DC region’s food system: from the workers who make our food possible to the disparities in access to fresh, healthy food,” said Samir Meghelli, curator of “Food for the People.” “For more than two years, we’ve interviewed a wide range of food-justice organizers, nonprofit leaders, farmers, food workers and policymakers to better understand the issues and offer a window onto the world behind our food—where it comes from, whose labor makes it possible, its environmental and health consequences and ideas on how to make it better.”
The lead sponsor for “Food for the People” is Events DC, the supporting sponsor is the Hillside Foundation—Allen & Shelley Holt and additional support is provided by The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. This exhibition received federal support from the Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Latino Center, and from the Asian Pacific American Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center.
Established in 1967, the Anacostia Community Museum examines the impact of contemporary social issues on urban communities. The museum is located at 1901 Fort Pl. S.E. Visit http://anacostia.si.edu for information on visiting the museum and participating in public programs during the current Covid pandemic. Follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
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