Pedro Urquilla visited the Prince George’s African American Museum and Cultural Center to view colorful artwork, photographs and some written history.
The museum treated Urquilla, his wife and the couple’s 7-year-old son and other visitors to cake and ice cream Saturday, Aug. 17 to celebrate its 10-year anniversary.
“We were looking for something to do art-based and community-based for our son,” said Urquilla of Hyattsville, whose family was visiting for the first time. “This is an incredible space and really powerful. The artwork is amazing.”
Visitors, members and other guests strolled inside the 4,000-square-foot building to view “Deeply Embedded,” a new exhibit by local artist Tawny Chatmon that opened Saturday and will be on display through Sept. 17.
One of Chatman’s photos can be seen on Instagram behind a smiling Blue Ivy Carter, daughter of Beyoncé and Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, during a Wearable Art Gala in June. The event sought to raise money for a California nonprofit gallery and performance center co-owned by Tina Knowles Lawson, Beyoncé’s mother, and her husband, Richard Lawson.
At the museum in North Brentwood, Chatman’s artwork and other pieces received accolades from Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Maryland).
“Not enough residents are familiar with the Prince George’s County African American Museum and Cultural Center,” Brown said. “It certainly displays the beautiful work of not only Prince George’s County residents, but depictions of the history, culture, life and legacy in Prince George’s County. It’s a wonderful treasure.”
Some of the local images are hung on a wall about the museum’s location in North Brentwood, which became the county’s first municipality incorporated by African Americans in 1924. Thirteen mayors have served in the town, including the current mayor, Petrella Robinson, who was featured last year in Essence magazine’s list of “Woke 100 Women.”
The museum’s executive director and chief curator, Monica Montgomery, wants to embody a “family-reunion” atmosphere to showcase local artist and expand upon Black culture based on the theme “The Story Continues.”
“While the National Museum of African American History and Culture has great exhibits and experience, we offer a small, friendly touch,” said Montgomery, who became the museum’s leader last year. “We center ourselves and bathe ourselves in Blackness. We’re happy to have done that for the past decade and … we’re going to continue doing that for decades to come.”
For instance, the museum annually celebrates holidays such as Juneteenth and Kwanzaa. The center also pays homage for Black August, which focuses on to embrace unity and self-sacrifice and institute prison reform and fight mass incarceration of Blacks through the history of George Jackson, killed by San Quentin prison guards during a rebellion in August 1971.
In terms of education, middle and high school students can participate in an after-school Culture Keepers program to research and teach about Black history, art and culture.
On Saturday, the museum officially welcomed two new artists who will showcase their talents for a full year.
Vanessa Williams, a Howard University graduate and former D.C. public schools art teacher, will be an artist-in-residence. She’s also a gospel singer who has toured with Richard Smallwood and Yolanda Adams.
The museum’s cultural ambassador, Vance “Head-Roc” Levy, will host a monthly event starting Sept. 20 with vendors, food and crafts, titled “Underground Railroad: Bazaar Under the Stars.” The name stems from the railroad behind the museum. He’s also part of a band called “GODISHEUS,” (pronounced gotta-see-us).
“Monica is making waves in the museum world and reimagining what museums are to moving this country forward,” said Levy, a 1989 Crossland High School graduate. “We don’t have to always focus on the European development of the country. What are we, chopped liver?”
For more information about the museum and future events, go to https://pgaamcc.org.