Why Washington DC?


Woubishet Taffese

African American Museum in D.C
Washington, DC, is both the seat of American political power and the main site for demonstrations on the major issues affecting American society, as exemplified by the huge “Black Lives Matter” sign painted in yellow letters on 16th Street leading up to the White House. Government and cultural institutions, especially the national museums of the Smithsonian, play a key role in helping Americans understand their past in order to face the challenges of the present and build the future of the United States.

Chosen by George Washington as the federal capital, Washington, DC, is structured around wide avenues named after American states, according to the plans laid out by French architect Pierre Charles L’Enfant. With more than 360,000 federal employees and 12,000 lobbyists, the city is the decision-making heart of the nation.

Stretching between the two main centers of political power, the Capitol and the White House, the National Mall is flanked by national museums and memorials, cultural emblems of the city and the country. Having witnessed major social events, including the 1963 civil rights March on Washington when Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, the National Mall is at the crossroads of politics and culture. In the words of Lonnie Bunch, Secretary of the Smithsonian (the world’s biggest museum complex, with more than three dozen museums, galleries, and research centers), museums are “a reservoir for America to dip into, to understand itself, to understand our environment."

In 2016, Bunch founded the National Museum of African American History and Culture in recognition of the contribution of Black Americans to the country’s history. Two new museums, dedicated to Latin Americans and women, are scheduled to open in the next few years in order to complete this kaleidoscopic yet shared vision of the nation.

The city’s geography and demographics echo the prevailing social tensions. Celebrated in the 1970s by funk musician George Clinton, who dubbed it “Chocolate City and its Vanilla suburbs,” Washington, DC, is gradually changing its image. To the west, large mansions with flamboyant gardens dotted with “Black Lives Matter” signs abound. Yet few African Americans, who represent over half of the city’s population, reside there – they live mostly in the eastern part of the city, on the other side of the Potomac. Their struggles against the gradual gentrification of their old neighborhoods, such as U Street, are expressed in go-go music, which evolved from funk music in the 1970s and became the city’s official music in 2020.

In the heart of this city, where politics and culture are closely interconnected, Villa Albertine will invite creators, thinkers, and cultural professionals to join in the dialogue and carry out experiments on the future of cultural institutions at a time of unprecedented upheaval.

See the residents of the Villa in Washington DC