Moving with the Rhythm

Music is at the Center of Prince George’s African American Museum & Cultural Center’s First Annual Gala this October

By Annamarya Scaccia

galaAfrican American culture is not just one note.

It’s a multidimensional narrative that grows richer by the day. To regard it in general terms would only shrink its remarkable value. After all, how could anyone put such a vivid, ever-evolving history in a neatly packaged box?

The answer: you can’t. That’s why Prince George’s African American Museum and Cultural Center’s first annual gala is titled “Celebrating Music in Our Culture.” Taking place October 6 at Martins Crosswinds in Greenbelt, the inaugural event will focus on one of the many facets of the African American story—music.

According to PGAAMCC Executive Director Dr. Jacqueline F. Brown, using music for the center’s first gala “made so much sense” not only because of its work with its 2011 Kwanzaa celebration, but because of the talent and support it receives from its dancing and instrumental artists. Moreover, she says, it’s an appropriate delineation of the eras linked to PGAAMCC’s last three exhibits, particularly the 1920s, ‘30s, and ‘40s of retrospectives like “Coming Home” and “A Space of Their Own.”

As part of this opening black tie fête, attendees can expect to hear and dance to period pieces as performed by the Clarence Knight Orchestra, which is headed by Bowie State University’s Fine and Performing Arts Department Chairman Dr. Clarence E. Knight. “We’re keeping it right in the family, which is wonderful,” she says of the outfit.

During the gala, patrons will also have the opportunity to take part in a silent auction featuring replicas of Curtis Woody’s artwork featured in PGAAMCC’s “A Struggle for Dignity: An Artistic Exploration of Slavery and Emancipation,” as well as to walk away with table gifts.

WUSA-9 Anchor J.C. Hayward, who Dr. Brown calls an “icon” and “wonderful, community-oriented person,” will serve as Mistress of Ceremony.

What “Celebrating Music in Our Culture” will ultimately achieve, however, is setting the stage for future galas that will underscore individual attributes of African American culture—complete with the “In Our Culture” tagline. It will also serve as a benefit for PGAAMCC’s public programs, youth initiatives, groundbreaking exhibits, and educational outreach.

“What we want to do is make sure the gala exposes our patrons, supporters and sponsors to the multifaceted experience of African-American culture, nationally and specifically in Prince George’s County,” says Dr. Brown, who has worked for the center since 2011.

But PGAAMCC’s first annual gala is not only poignant for its concept. It’s also when the center will introduce its annual Cultural Horizons Award, which will be given to a young Prince Georgian who has made “a spectacular contribution” to the culture specific to theme of each gala. Since this is the award’s inception, the recipient is involved in music.

Prince George’s Suite had a chance to chat with Dr. Brown about what the gala means for PGAAMCC and Prince George’s County, and the importance of celebrating African-American history—even in the making.

The Prince George’s African American Museum & Cultural Center has been in operation for a few years. What was it about this year, this time that felt right to have its first gala?

We had spent, consistently, the last two years making sure that our programming, our mission and our activities were in the public, involving the public, out to the public and having the public come into our center to be involved. Once you get a vested social interest in the programming so that people know that it really is their story, and it’s about them, and that we talked to them and that they go to us, people become anxious to make sure that this is preserved in some way—and there is a continuity of these programs and activities, that they’re not lost, and that the structure to house them is one that is worthy of an expression of who they and their story. Since we’ve done that type of community building for the last two years intensively, this was the year to say, “Let’s do our first annual fundraising gala that will allow the influx of our monies to continue our programs and to aid our capital development.”

Why did the center develop the Cultural Horizons Award?

One of the actual tenets of our mission is that we not only…talk about history and what’s been done as a cultural center, we [also] have a commitment to create our culture. Our concept is African-American culture is the never-ending story and everyone has a responsibility to add their page to that ongoing story in an evolutionary manner. Therefore, the Cultural Horizons Award speaks to that with those young artists or purveyors of culture. Those folk say, quite frankly, “This is what we’re going to be looking like. This is where we’re heading.”

Who will be the award’s first recipient?

We’re very proud of it but we’re going to keep it under wraps because it’s a surprise. Everybody’s going to be absolutely thrilled.

In addition to the music, dancing and silent auction, what else can gala attendees expect?

People will get a brief understanding of the institution, where we are and where we plan to be, and how they are helping and can continue to help. So it will be a marvelous evening. I know everybody is going to have a great time.

Celebrating Music in Our Culture: PGAAMCC’s First Annual Gala – October 6, 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., Martins Crosswinds, 7400 Greenway Center Drive, Greenbelt, MD 20770

Published on Prince George’s Suite – Friday, September 14, 2012

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