Esperanza Spalding and Yo Yo Ma in Anacostia

By Editorial Team on December 11, 2018

Historic Anacostia was awash with art, music and advocacy on Friday, as the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts along with the Yo-Yo Ma’s Bach Project, partnered with the Anacostia Arts Center, Nubian Hueman, The Den Artist Exchange and Reading Room, and other Anacostia organizations to create a full day of creative energy and empowerment. From the stage on the National Cathedral, Yo-Yo Ma thanked Nubian Hueman owner Anika Hobbs for the scarf he wore during his opening number, which was broadcast live via Facebook at Union Station and across the world. He told viewers that he would be doing all of his holiday shopping at the Anacostia Arts Center and encouraged folks to shop local in Anacostia. Ma’s message caused over 400 people to descend upon the historic and often overlooked corner of the city.

In what is surely becoming the Arts District of DC, Yo-Yo Ma performed ‘Prelude’ from Bach’s first cello suite to open the day of activities at We Act Radio on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. Students from Anacostia High School and Turner Elementary supported by Project Create and the Kennedy Center designed and painted a mural in the High School and then broke out into groups to participate in guided workshops focused on “Imagining Equitable Futures”.

Local artists and community activists, Maryam Foye and John Johnson led a powerful and engaging Town Hall Think-In at the Anacostia Playhouse. They were joined by four-time Grammy Award winning artist Esperanza Spalding and Yo-Yo Ma, to discuss the options for building local equity as external forces continue in their efforts to change the climate East of the River.

“You have proof now that this community is present and, ready to be engaged” – Foye stated.

Local favorite “Majestic Knights Marching Band” of Ballou High School, stopped traffic and turned heads as they escorted Yo-Yo Ma and guests from the Anacostia Playhouse through the business corridor to the Anacostia Arts Center for a Small Business Happy Hour and Gallery Opening. Guests squeezed into every available corner of the Center to experience an intimate performance from Esperanza Spalding in Nubian Hueman and Southeast Trinity artist – Dev Duff. Yo-Yo Ma then lead a conversation with the artists featured in the gallery exhibits Black Gold and In Between. Before rushing out to catch his flight, Yo-Yo Ma honored guests with a highly-anticipated performance in the lounge of the Anacostia Arts Center. The loud chatter and excited laughter hushed to a low murmur of appreciation, as the melodious tones of his 266-year-old cello filled the air.

“The energy of the vibrant cultural scene in Anacostia exploded into an evening of joy, entertainment, deep thought, provocative conversations, and a whole lot of fun. It was very much like an all-day block party, and I’m honored that we got to be a part of it.” – Camille Kashaka, Director Anacostia Arts Center.

Black Gold will be on display in the Anacostia Arts Center until January 5, 2019. All pieces are for sale except the original piece “Ori” by Oluwatoyin Tella which was purchased by Yo-Yo Ma. In Between by Tim Davis is on display in Honfleur Gallery until January 19, 2019.

(Essay courtesy of Kadija Bangura. Photo by Stereovision.)