Black History Month: Gallery celebrating Black women on display in DC

February 8, 2023

WTOP/Erron Franklin

It was supposed to be a one night show, but now a traveling museum that celebrates the contributions Black women have made to the world is on display in three major U.S. cities, including D.C.

The Museum for Black Girls in Northeast D.C. is a pop-up gallery full of eclectic art displays paying homage to African American women while celebrating their stories, experiences and “Black Girl Magic.”

“All of my work as a photographer is dedicated to empowering and elevating the work of Black women,” said Charlie Billingsley, the museum’s founder.

Billingsley, a 34-year-old photographer from Denver, was searching for a way to celebrate her birthday back in 2019 when she developed the concept for the immersive art museum.

Museum for Black Girls founder Charlie Billingsley (L) with her aunt and co-founder Von Ross (R). (WTOP/Erron Franklin)

The event that was planned for one night has now lived on as a traveling museum over the past three years.

“I really wanted to create a space where we’re not highlighting the traumas of Black women or Black women being angry,” Billingsley said. “I wanted to highlight the joy of being Black.”

The self-funded museum is also family-run. Von Ross is the museum’s co-creator and Billingsley’s aunt. She thought the concept was beautiful and remembered what she told her niece on the night of their first opening.

“I said, ‘this is bigger than you,'” she said, recalling telling her niece. “This is what the community needs. This is what our people need…you can’t do this for one day.”

Ross encouraged people to stop by the museum to celebrate Black History Month.

“This is a great place to come and celebrate the achievements of Black women,” Ross said. “We are celebrating all the amazing things that we do, that we have done and that we’re going to do.”

The museum is still expanding. The founders said the next pop-up could be in New York, North Carolina or on the West Cost. The concept could soon become global – Billingsley said a London space is in the works and she’d love to do a pop-up at Ghana’s Afrochella.

The D.C location is at 1256 4th Street in Northeast. It’s open Thursday to Sunday from 12 to 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday tours are by appointment only. Admission is $32.

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