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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Out and About in Anacostia!

Residents and regular visitors to Anacostia know this historic neighborhood really does have it all. In Anacostia, residents greet each other by name and share insider info on the best places to grab a good coffee, see a show or snag a delicious local lunch. They know—as will you after reading our guide below—that there’s really no need to head downtown to satisfy your cravings for contemporary art, theater, literature, music, food, and good old-fashioned community spirit. This is our list of what to do and see in Historic Anacostia.

P-l-a-y

Anacostia Jazz Hop

Locations along Anacostia’s main business corridor of Martin Luther King. Jr Ave SE. and Marion Barry Ave SE. will host live Jazz sessions, food, retail and art experiences  as part of a partnership between the Anacostia BID and the DC JazzFest in September. If you’re a fan of DC’s unique Jazz culture, this one’s for you. www.anacostiabid.org

Anacostia Roller Skating Pavilion

The only roller rink in the entire National Park Service (NPS) system, the Anacostia Roller Skating Pavillion (1500 Anacostia Dr. SE) is open dawn to dusk every day. You can buy refreshments and borrow skates (free!) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Memorial Day to Labor Day. Check out the schedule of special events and weekend DJs at www.nps.gov/anac/planyourvisit/roller-skating.htm

Anacostia Shorts Film Festival

Part of the Open Road Film Festival, the Annual Anacostia Shorts Contest is a chance for local filmmakers of the DMV to feature their works of 20 minutes of less, with an opportunity to win cash prizes. Films are screened at the Honfleur Gallery (1241 Marion Barry Ave. SE). The deadline for submissions is March 23. Learn more filmfreeway.com/AnOpenRoadFilmFestival

Art All Night

Across all nine wards in late September, Art All Night is when residents flood out onto the streets after dark to socialize and support local businesses and artists. In Anacostia, this is the best time to meet local shop owners, creatives and Anacostia residents while taking in a plethora of pop-up food stands, artist and designer talks, fashion shows, photography, spoken word poetry and dance. Don’t miss it. www.anacostiabid.org/art-all-night

Art All Night

Project Create DC

Head down to Project Create at 2208 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave SE. on every second and third Saturday of the month for Family Art Day. While there, ask one of the friendly art therapists about the HeART Space Program designed to facilitate coping mechanisms for emotional trauma and stress. Your kids can also participate in Project Create’s Arts Enrichment Field Trip Program that facilitates trips to museums and other creative, culturally enriching spaces. Christie Walser started Anacostia’s Project Create DC back in 1994. Through its weekly lineup of free programs for kids and families focused on art therapy and education, Project Create has become an essential part of the Anacostia community. “From the beginning, we had as a focus art as therapy. We have an art therapist as our director of programs,” said Walser. “ Through art making, you can explore issues around loneliness, disconnectedness, family and peer dynamics.” www.projectcreatedc.org

Art To Go Go

Jump on a scooter and zoom around the streets as part of the Anacostia Business Improvement District (BID)’s initiatives to get visitors and locals alike to explore the historic center of town. This tour of public art is entirely self-guided, so download the map or scan the QR code via the link below to get going. Luis Peralta Del Valle’s mural of the legendary Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. is not to be missed. www.arttogogo.org

Art to Go Go Shuttle

Hillsdale Farmers Market at Barry Farm

The Hillsdale Farmers Market (2600 Firth Sterling Ave. SE) is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every third Sunday from mid-June to mid-October. Residents of all ages enjoy the festivities, discovering local produce, artisanal makers, local businesses, great performances and connection with neighbors. barryfarmredevelopment.org

Mobile GO-GO Museum

Go-go music is an important signifier of DC’s unique African American culture. The Anacostia BID’s Mobile GO-GO Museum is a moving home for this art form, which originated in the 1960s/70s, and is characterized by its integration of audience responses. The Museum is a converted 28-passenger mobile bus that incorporates a hydraulic performance stage on the roof. Inside is a DJ booth, historical exhibits and a hologram of GO-GO legend Anwan “Big G” Glover. Last year, the Anacostia BID team broke ground at 1920 Martin Luther King, Jr. Ave. SE, the future site of the official GO-GO Museum. Watch this space for future museum updates and keep your Spring calendar clear for the official opening. www.gogomuseumcafe.com

Shopping on the Go-Go

This unique retail, dining and social experience kicks off with brunch and proceeds to a series of unique shopping destinations punctuated by cocktail stops. It all happens to the sound of your favorite Go-Go hits. Make new friends, find unique holiday gifts and show support for the small businesses along Anacostia’s commercial corridors. Learn more under “Events’” at anacostiabid.org or contact ashley@anacostiabid.org

Spoken Word to Go-Go

The Spoken word is a literary and performance art in which lyrics, poetry, sketches, or stories are spoken instead of sung. Contestants perform their words with music —the official music of DC – Go-Go! The winner of the 2023 Spoken Word to Go-Go Competition received $1000, a studio session with The Experience Band & Show, and a trophy presented by the Office of Cable, Television, Film, Movies, and Entertainment (OCTME). Find more info at anacostiabid.org/wordtogogo

UMOJA Holiday Market

Every December the Umoja Holiday Market celebrates food, fun and Black-owned business at the Anacostia Arts Center (1231 Marion Barry Ave. SE). It’s a chance to get your holiday shopping done with a little cultural cultivation on top of creative commerce. Check out this year’s dates under “events” at anacostiaartscenter.com

 

S-h-o-p

Anacostia Organics

Linda Mercado Greene is as much of a DC institution as the Washington Monument, and even more impressive. When the city legalized cannabis usage in 2010, she saw an opportunity to help her neighbors in Anacostia, many of whom needed to travel across the city to obtain medical marijuana prescriptions. Mercado Greene opened Anacostia Organics, the only medical cannabis dispensary east of the Anacostia River. With sleek white display shelves accented by warm wood and gleaming glass, Anacostia Organics offers a wide range of tinctures, edibles, vaporizers, flowers, and pre-rolls. Never one to settle, Mercado Greene is the first female chair of the DC Medical Cannabis Trade Association, and somehow also finds time to serve on DC’s Historic Preservation Review Board, in addition to running a Public Relations firm, and being a political consultant to members of Congress. Tune in to her podcast, The Cannabis Conversation, every weekday at 2:30PM. dcradio.gov/programming/cannabisconversation. www.anacostiaorganics.com

Busboys and Poets Books

Busboys and Poets Books (2004 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave SE) is a space devoted to strengthening the communities they are in through access to socially-conscious literature, programs, healing conversations and a respectful exchange of ideas. Check out the selection of books and programming in The Barry Room. busboysandpoets.com

Crate Convention

The Anacostia Art Center’s famous Crate Convention in summer – organised in collaboration with DJ RBI, is where you’re able to connect with and shop diverse and eclectic African American owned vinyl record stores and other uber cool brands like Cookie Wear.  Instagram: @thecrateadventure

Good Hope Hydroponics

This urban indoor and outdoor gardening store and supplier at 1113 Marion Barry Ave. SE offers equipment and advice to cultivate a green haven where you live. Plus, experience their clone giveaways, on-site events for the ‘canna community’. goodhopehydroponics.com

Kitchen Physician

Specializing in natural and herbal supplements for immune support, Kitchen Physician (1421 Marion Barry Ave. SE) Shawnette Monroe creates more than 80 percent of merchandise available in her herbal pharmacy. The DC native and Ward 8 resident prioritizes local farmers and companies in selecting ingredients. Monroe says her goal is to help people achieve holistic wellness naturally —in mind, body and spirit. thekitchenphysician.net

The Kitchen Physician

La Threadz Couture

Premiere clothing boutique La Threadz (1348 Marion Barry Ave. SE) specializes in the hottest fits —coats to shoes and everything in between. They also offer custom graphic design services on T-shirts, hats, buttons, pendants, and more! Filling a need, La Threadz also provides wifi services and is a huge supporter of youth, offering a safe spot in the Safe Passages DC program. lathreadz.com

You Matter Spa

Renowned for their pre- and postpartum massage services, You Matter Spa (1214 U St. SE) also offers therapeutic massage, retreats and Jacuzzi time. Founder and Anacostia resident Sharla Thomas also opens the space to wellness and youth events. youmatterspa.com

Mahogany Books

Opened in 2017 by Derrick. A Young and Ramunda L. Young, this treasure trove of a bookstore located within the Anacostia Arts Center carries literary contributions that celebrate Black history and culture from America and the Diaspora. We picked up a copy of Picturing Frederick Douglass: An Illustrated Biography of the Nineteenth Century’s Most Photographed American, containing beautiful portraits of Douglass and his family, many of them in and around Anacostia. On the first Friday of each month at 6 p.m., catch the Mahogany Books X Panama Jackson Book Club. www.mahoganybooks.com

Vintage and Charmed

Do you love vintage clothing, bespoke jewelry and heavenly candles and lotions? Then stop by the Anacostia Arts Center and pay Vintage and Charmed a visit. Stocked solely with products from female-owned and operated businesses, Vintage and Charmed demonstrates what women in business can accomplish when supported and allowed to thrive. The team also offers bespoke services such as themed parties, personal style assessments and fashion workshops. www.facebook.com/vintagencharmed

Vintage and Charmed

 

E-a-t

6Co Eatery

This unassuming eatery at 1916 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE serves up notable favorites, including cheeseburgers, sandwiches, steak and cheese, and salads. It’s a go-to for quick bites and comfort food. Most days, you’ll find Mr. 6Co himself behind the counter. See the menu: 6co-eatery.business.site

Busboys and Poets

This restaurant/community meeting space/events venue was opened in 2018 and is the first Busboys and Poets location in Southeast DC. The brainchild of restauranteur, activist and artist Andy Shallal, you can expect much more than just great food at this eclectic venue, such as Karaoke with the Kingpin on the first Fridays and Saturdays of the month.  www.busboysandpoets.com

Artwork in Busboys and Poets

DCity Smokehouse

Melvin Hines and Charese John have hit on something excellent at this, their second DCity Smokehouse location: Quality meat and tasty sides with a winning combination of spices. On any Saturday afternoon, expect queues of locals and visitors alike and the tables inside packed to bursting with conversation and good food. Try the Meaty Palmer (only for dedicated carnivores), and don’t forget to order a side of their famous Hush Puppies or Mac and Cheese. www.dcitysmokehouse.com

DCity Smokehouse

ELife

The Everlasting Life Vegan Restaurant inside the Anacostia Arts Center (1231 Marion Barry Ave SE) serves up plant-based soul food to lifelong vegans and those who are curious. Founded in 1995, you’ll find BBQ tofu, mac and cheese and collards in addition to desserts and soy-free ice cream. Stop by for the hearty Sunday brunch. www.eliferestaurant.com

Kitchen Savages

Owner and founder of Kitchen Savages, Executive Chef Darrell Gaston, is no stranger to ward 8 and the Southeast. He served on the DC Council and as a neighborhood commissioner. He practiced law to bring equality and justice to his community, but ultimately decided that love and food make more lasting changes. Kitchen Savages, at 1211 Marion Barry Ave. SE, employs staff from in and around the neighborhood, helping them to care for themselves and their families. Inside, expect exposed brick, gold cutlery, black table linen and the scents and tastes of five star, homestyle cooking. Don’t leave without ordering a side of Old Bay fries and their signature banana pudding cheesecake.  www.kitchensavages.com

Mama’s Pizza Kitchen

Since 1986 and across more than four states, Mama has been serving up homestyle, Southern-inspired BBQ and luscious Italian pizza and pasta to her customers. Pay her a visit for either a well-deserved, mid-week break from cooking or a Saturday night treat. www.mamaspizzatogo.com

Open Crumb

This unassuming storefront owned and operated by Chef Peter Opare at 1243 Marion Barry Ave. SE, is home to a Black-owned scratch kitchen where food is prepared in-house from raw ingredients. Folks rave about the fried chicken sandwich, shrimp and grits and Jollof rice, but don’t sleep on the sandwiches or the vegan peanut soup. See the full menu and get hours at www.opencrumbdc.com

Turning Natural

Black woman-owned Turning Natural is feeding and empowering the community. The Anacostia location at 2025 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE provides healthy choices such as the acai and pitaya bowls, black bean burger, veggie and spinach patties and salad bar together with a wide variety of no-additive juices and juice cleanses. Shop in-store or get juice online at turningnatural.com

(Opening Soon)

Capitol City Seafood Market & Deli

Sixth-generation Washingtonian Ron Williams Jr., founder of RT Williams Seafood (www.rtwilliamsseafood.com) will bring a new seafood eatery and bakery to the corner of Good Hope Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Ave SE, drawing on his years of experience harvesting seafood from the Chesapeake.

Fresh Food Factory

Founded by Amanda Stephenson, the Fresh Food Factory (1231 Marion Barry Rd. SE) will be a retail incubator market designed to serve Ward 8 as a catalyst for food equity and economic development, improving the health of underserved residents through better food access and education and lifting up local food entrepreneurs. Shop online now thefreshfoodfactory.com

Grounded

The online wellness plant company is slated to open a brick and mortar store that integrates a plant shop, cafe, and wellness studio at 1913 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave SE. Founders Mignon Hemsley and Danielle Doswell say they are dedicated to fostering a deep connection with the natural world through the principles of biophilic design. feelgrounded.com

Taste Lab DC

Led by hospitality veteran Talema Rice, the 4,000 square foot tasting kitchen and business incubator and ghost kitchen will open as part of Maple View Flats (228 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave SE). tastelab.co

S-e-e

Anacostia Arts Center

Sited in Anacostia’s old Woolworth building (the original mosaic letter ‘W’ is still in place on the doorstep), the Anacostia Arts Center is powered by the Washington Area Community Investment Fund, or Wacif (see our interview with the Center’s General Director below). Standing within a few yards of the historic intersection of Marion Barry Ave. SE. and Martin Luther King, Jnr. Ave SE, the Center is home to artists, creatives, entrepreneurs, and Black-owned businesses from Anacostia and further afield. In line with Wacif’s primary goals, the Center gives its tenants access to economic and financial opportunities, and the chance to build generational and community wealth in a historically underserved neighborhood. 

Inside, you’ll find the ELife vegan soul food restaurant, the Fresh Food Factory and Market Eatery, The HIVE business and entrepreneurship working space and an assortment of fashion, lifestyle, and health stores. Take your time passing by the Center’s large glass windows on Marion Barry Ave SE, which are always ablaze with a rotating display of artwork curated by Jessica Randolph, the Center’s Associate Creative Director. www.anacostiaartscenter.com

Anacostia Arts Center

Anacostia Playhouse

In a plain brick building at 2020 Shannon Pl. SE, the Anacostia Playhouse’s Stephawn Stephens and his team have created a platform for theater talent from East of the river. When he assumed the role of Artistic Director two years ago, Stephens says, he made the bold decision to change the Playhouse’s programming format. “The original model for the space is that we would be more of a roadhouse because we already have an inhouse resident company that’s producing. We would invite others east of the river to do their performances. That model hasn’t necessarily worked. So I decided that we will plan a season and create and produce ourselves.” This was born out of a desire for the Playhouse’s productions to reflect the themes affecting the community it serves, Stephens explains. When they’re not working on planning the next lineup of plays, Stephens and his colleagues are working hard to skill up DC’s next generation of actors, producers and directors through the Marion Barry Summer Youth Employment Program (MBSYEP). The 2024/2025 season is still being decided on but add these events to your diary for next year: National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day presentation on February 7; Verbal Gymnastics at Art All Night in September; Theater After Dark in October (adults only); The New Voices New Works play festival in November. www.anacostiaplayhouse.com

Baakari Wilder, Gaddiel Adams, Briona Jackson, Jacquelyn Hawkins; At the Anacostia Playhouse. photo: Ja Mon

Anacostia River Festival

Hosted by Building Bridges Across the River (BBARDC), the Anacostia River Festival is part of DC’s annual city-wide National Cherry Blossom Festival. Every May, the Festival brings folks down to the shores of the Anacostia River to learn more about the role this historic body of water plays in the health and wellness of DC residents and the communities that live along its banks. Live music and performances by local musicians – don’t miss the highly anticipated annual Spoken Word to Go-Go contest–are interspersed with food and drink trucks, and booths aimed at environmental education. Venture out of Anacostia Park and through the pedestrian tunnel under route 295 into Historic Anacostia to meet and greet locals. You’ll find them comfortably ensconced in their garden chairs out on the sidewalks for the day.  www.bridgepark.org/arf

The Big Chair

No visit to Historic Anacostia would be complete without seeing the famous Big Chair by Bassett Furniture at 2100 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE. Constructed in 1959, Anacostia’s largest piece of furniture has seen a few redesigns since the 1950s to keep it fresh and updated but it’s remained a much-beloved icon of the neighborhood. www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chair_(sculpture)

The Big Chair

CraigKraft Studio

Craig Kraft is a longtime resident of Anacostia. Soft-spoken but with the unmistakable glow of an intense intellect, Kraft’s current body of neon art explores the ancient human urge to mark space, drawing inspiration from the graffiti-etched walls of a jazz club in Mississippi to ancient cave networks in Europe and Namibia. Ten years ago, Kraft completely redeveloped the building he lives and works in located at1239 Good Hope Rd. SE. His studio space is just below his apartment and is a delightful assemblage of brightly glowing neon light, interspersed with artwork in varying stages of development. Visiting Kraft’s studio is akin to touring the inner recesses of his eclectically creative mind. He’s currently working on a Brancusi-inspired tower of neon, so stop in to say hi. www.craigkraftstudio.com

Craig Kraft

Black Box Theatre

This versatile space on the ground level of the Anacostia Arts Center regularly hosts panel discussions, community engagement forums, small-scale theater shows and a variety of other educational and entertainment activities. It seats 85 people in almost 1000 square feet and rental rates start at $125. anacostiaartscenter.com/rentals/black-box-theatre/

Children’s Legacy Theatre (CLT)

CLT (1231 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave SE) creates theater experiences that educate, challenge and inspire teens to connect to different cultures and ideas. Through after school programming and performances, youth compose and direct their own plays, questioning and exploring the world. See “Robert Smalls, Legend of the Black Mariner’ Friday Feb. 23 – Sunday feb. 25. Tickets: childrenslegacytheatre8.org

Honfleur Gallery

Duane Gautier’s Honfleur Gallery at 1241 Marion Barry Ave SE has the pristine white walls and large format exhibition space you’d expect to see in New York’s Dumbo. Gautier has been active in Anacostia since the mid 80s when he and his wife set up the first NPO business incubators in the neighborhood. A deep passion for art was instilled in him from a young age. “When I was growing up, my mother used to drive me to all sorts of art shows, art openings, concerts and operas. Obviously, it sank in. I’ve helped to establish arts collaboratives in Russia and Northern Ireland. My wife and I have been collectors of art since the 60s” Gautier says. He opened Honfleur in January of 2007, in response to what he perceived as a lack of space for artists East of the river to exhibit their work and engage with their community. “There was no place that Anacostia residents could go to see art, listen to good music, poetry. That was the real reason for the establishment of the gallery and the arts center.” In addition to a regular schedule of exhibitions, Honfleur Gallery also offers residencies to artists from Wards 7 and 8. The Gallery’s East of the River Distinguished Artist Award is a highly anticipated event on DC’s yearly arts calendar.  www.honfleurgallerydc.com

Honfluer Gallery

Frederick Douglass National Historic Site

The former home of Frederick Douglass—celebrated abolitionist, author, orator and DC’s first Black marshal—the old Cedar Hill estate is a relic from the days when the Anacostia River’s Eastern banks were home to the sprawling farms of DC’s landed gentry. Douglass purchased it in 1877. While many of these estates were demolished in the first part of the 20th Century to make way for a rising tide of urban development, Cedar Hill remained intact. The views of the city from the 50-foot hill on which the old house is built are exceptional. Don’t leave without visiting the old Growlery at the bottom of the garden, where Douglass penned his last autobiography. www.nps.gov/frdo

The Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum

The Anacostia Community Museum was established in 1967 to tell the stories and capture the histories of the people that lived around it. This community-focused approach, seeded by a surging Civil Rights movement, destabilized the traditional, Eurocentric methodology of curation and exhibition that frequently omitted important contributions to history, art and culture by women, queer people and people of color. Today, this ethos still guides the museum’s exhibitions and public programs. It hosts an array of regular activities and workshops offered online and in person, in addition to a schedule of curated exhibitions focused on themes pertinent to DC and further afield. www.anacostia.si.edu

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