Anacostia Arts Center promotes Black fashion, food, health in Southeast DC

WTOP's Jason Fraley salutes Anacostia Arts Center (Part 1)

Since 2013, Anacostia Arts Center has inspired Good Hope Road in Southeast D.C.

When the pandemic subsides, head over the bridge to support Black-owned businesses.

“The Anacostia Arts Center is such a palette cleanser for the city,” ARCH Development Associate Creative Director Jess Randolph told WTOP. “We have an entire arts space that’s full of completely Black-owned businesses. I’m just so blessed that it exists.”

That includes fashion stores, from Vintage & Charmed to Nubian Hueman.

“We sell men’s, ladies’ and kids’ clothing, art, beauty products and accessories from all over the world,” Nubian Hueman Owner and Chief Curator Anika Hobbs told WTOP. “We’ve worked with over 600 artists from over 35 countries and six continents.”

What are some of her most popular brands?

“Some fan favorites are Honey Pot, Kreyòl Essence, Abcrete & Co. is one of our new D.C brands, Black Pepper Paperie, Philadelphia Printworks, Urban Zulu, which is one of our favorites from South Africa, and LeyeLesi from Nigeria,” Hobbs said.

Once you pick out some clothes, grab a healthy bite from The Fresh Food Factory.

“We sell local, healthy and ethnic food solely,” Owner Amanda Stephenson told WTOP. “We offer fonio, injera, Teff flour, chin chin, jollof rice. A lot of these are foods you’d find in Africa on the continent, West Africa, Northern Africa. These are ancient grains and foods that will build our community. … They are foods that are known to heal.”

She got the idea from growing up on a farm near Williamsburg, Virginia.

“My father had terminal cancer and was given six months to a year,” Stephenson said. “We needed to make lifestyle changes and we did so by feeding him different products. We grew up on an animal farm: game, pheasants, ducks, chickens, but we also had to infuse vegetables into our lifestyle. … He surpassed his life expectancy by 18 years.”

Every Monday, she offers free food, hoping to improve the diet of her neighbors.

“We differentiate ourselves by selling superior foods to a community that has suffered historically from being underserved, plagued and riddled by food that hasn’t been beneficial,” Stephenson said. “The USDA has labeled Anacostia to be a food desert or food swamp. You don’t have a lot of food options or the foods are greasy in nature.”

Likewise, the Anacostia Arts Center also hosts ELife, which serves 100% vegan food.

“It’s a Black family-owned vegan restaurant,” Randolph said. “They have a couple of locations in our area, but they also have a location in the Anacostia Arts Center.”

Perhaps most famous is the Black family-owned bookstore Mahogany Books.

“Their daughter is a part-owner, so you’re completely supporting a Black family when you shop at Mahogany Books,” Randolph said. “They were recently on the ‘Today’ show with President Barack Obama, so they are really getting their shine right now.”

If you want to read your book with good posture, check out chiropractor Chirokei Consulting LLC.

“A Black woman-owned chiropractor shop,” Randolph said. “The owner of Chirokei is really inspiring and she’s definitely super into fitness, so check out Chirokei.”

You can also enjoy live entertainment at the Black Box Theater via Facebook.

“Since the pandemic started, obviously live performances aren’t really happening like they usually do, but we’ve had award-winning plays,” Randolph said. “Right now, the main thing is this program called The Hut, a live performance series where local acts come play instrumental music. We’ve had rappers, bluegrass, all kinds of artists.”

She says society is talking the talk, but it’s time to start walking the walk.

“I just invite the region as a whole to come through and support these Black-owned businesses,” Randolph said. “2020 was full of talk about doing the right thing by African-American people in this region and in this country, so let’s put our money where our mouths are. Come visit and support these brilliant business owners.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley salutes Anacostia Arts Center (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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