Keeping the Beat to Race Relations in DC

Is it called Malcolm X Park or Meridian Hill Park? Who can lay claim to an historic neighborhood – the people who live there, or the people whom they displaced? In Washington, DC, these questions form part of a history of tenuous race relations. As a new First Family enters the White House, does the nation’s capital remain a segregated city?

Every Sunday afternoon when the weather is warm, people of all colors gather for an African drum circle. Inside the circle, the musicians are joined by dancers, while around its edges people read books, perform circus routines and gather to watch the spectacle. The event has taken place every summer since the 1960s – many claim its origins in the race riots of ’68 – even as the crowd and city have changed around it. ¬†What does the drum circle reveal about the complicated story of race relations in Washington DC?

My new short film about race relations in DC, as told through the story of a drum circle: Keeping the Beat to Race Relations in DC