The second area of focus for this summer's Smithsonian Folklife Festival is Anacostia. For those who are unfamiliar with Washington, D.C. let me say this--you will be hard pressed to find a more diverse, interesting, and historically-segregated city in the entire country. Anacostia is the traditional "ghetto" of the nation's capital, and I mean that with no disrespect. Accepting the urban American understanding of the word ghetto, Anacostia is overwhelmingly black, poor, and lacking in access to basic economic, welfare, and cultural amenities. Anacostia has a high crime rate with outsized criminality around drug usage, sexual exploitation and violence. Just this past week two children and a counselor at a summer camp were shot in a spray of bullets that involved gang activity and had nothing what-so-ever to do with any of them. That is the popular image of Anacostia.
Anacostia is also a rich cultural enclave. There are many wonderful, dynamic, and selfless people who believe in the power of community to catalyze change who are devoting their lives to making Anacostia a vibrant and invigorating place in which to thrive. Arena Stage, one of the pre-eminent regional theater companies in the nation, is located there. The Frederick Douglas Museum and Cultural center testify to Anacostia's centuries long location as a folcrum of justice and civil evolution. My resent visit to the Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens is a example of Anacostia's natural beauty and resources.
And if there simply isn't enough depth in Anacostia--and I don't believe this to be the case--to fill out a third of this festival, then create another opportunity like a series at the Kennedy Center.
Feeding thousands from under a tent miles away from the source of production is a challenge for a well-heeled operation. It can only be a nightmare for a novice establishment--I don't think there is some mega-Azerbaijani-festival-food conglomerate out there. So suffice to say that the picture on the placard did not deliver what it promised.
Furthermore, I have this dear, dear friend who has a fixation on how food born pathogens affect the digestive track. She always claims some set and certain time frame from ingestion to reaction. It's a number like 16 hours and she claims a scientific superiority when espousing her understanding of it...it's a battle I never think worth engaging. I know it's poppycock! Lunch at 12:30--violent gastro-intestinal response began at 3:30 and continued again and again and again until 4:30 and then slept until 8...awoke to another episode, and now at 10:30 steady as she goes. So much for Azerbaijani food!