The Humanities Truck kicked off the 2019-2020 school year at the 41st annual Adams Morgan Day this past Sunday, September 8. As a first year graduate fellow working with the truck, this event was my first chance to see it in action. Having been a member of the team for only two weeks, I’m still learning what purposes we can and should serve in the DMV and in specific neighborhoods, with specific communities. Since the truck was at its full potential for Adams Morgan Day, I really got to see what it is capable of and what impact we can have.
The interior and exterior walls of the truck functioned as exhibit space for the Anacostia Community Museum’s A Right to the City exhibition. This exhibition examines how Washingtonians have shaped and defined their neighborhoods— including Adams Morgan. The Museum is closed until October 13 for renovations, so we partnered with curator Samir Meghelli and the DC Public Library to take the exhibit to the streets. Visitors were able to watch oral histories about Adams Morgan, see historic photos, and read about how the neighborhood has (and hasn’t) changed.
We also partnered with the DC Storytelling System, led by American University professor Benjamin Stokes, to expand the impact of the exhibition. Through a repurposed payphone, visitors could listen to more oral histories collected by the Anacostia Community Museum and even had the chance to record their own. The DC Storytelling System team also organized a raffle and historical scavenger hunt that people could join from their smartphones to further engage the community in local history.
Finally, the truck powered a stage with performances from six local artists sponsored by the DC Public Library. From boogaloo to Brazilian samba, the truck was bumping with beats that encouraged passersby to sing and dance along. Thousands (yes, literally thousands) of people stopped by the stage to interact with the music reflecting the diverse heritage of the people who have shaped the neighborhood.
Adams Morgan Day was the perfect event for me to begin my time with the Humanities Truck. In class, we’ve talked about how we can use history to bring a community together and start difficult and necessary conversations. At Adams Morgan Day, I saw how the truck created and held space to do just that. I talked with visitors who saw themselves in the A Right to the City exhibit, listened as friends and family members reflected on their own local history after listening to the oral histories on the DC Storytelling System’s payphone, and watched strangers sing and dance together as they were united in music. After this amazing event, I can’t wait to see what my future with the Humanities Truck holds!