I’d just walked through the door from work excited to see my sister, Valerie June, who was visiting from New York. She was sitting at the bar with her laptop open nonchalantly talking about all of her fantastic project’s to come. Conversations with her always enthrall me as she describes these happenings of magnitude that she’s working on as if they are just normal office activities.
For those of you who don’t know, my sister Valerie June is a big deal! – Said by a proud baby sister! She’s been in all kinds of magazines Elle, People, Rolling Stone and so many more. So, when I walked into my kitchen on Wednesday evening as my husband was cooking dinner and she chatted away about her work, I couldn’t help but tune in. She’d recently worked on a project entitled “Me and the Light.”
“It is a short film and education initiative, featuring critically acclaimed movement artist Lil Buck with new original music by Paul Taylor, Valerie June (my sister), and Drumma Boy. The film reveals how art can help transform ourselves and our communities struggling with violence.” The premiere of the film was taking place at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. The project was led by an organization called Grounded which build teams of students and community collaborators to address youth violence in Memphis, TN. With my husband, Alex, being from Memphis, and Valerie and I with ties to Memphis, we dove right into a conversation about this vital initiative. The next thing we knew, and just two weeks out, Alex and I were planning our trip for this special occasion. We had to see Valerie perform with Lil Buck and a group of kids who’d travel up from Richmond, Virginia. Furthermore, we had to be present for the awakening of this movement and all that is to come.
To learn more about Grounded, click here.
I hold strong ties to D.C. and Memphis. In both cities, I’ve worked on initiatives to help the youth. While interning at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, I completed a service project with D.C. high school, Anacostia. I’ve always had a heart for just this. I was excited to make my way to D.C. for a full-circle moment of awareness and inspiration. I was excited to witness the conversation about how we can come together to combat violence and heal our communities.
We arrived in D.C. on a Friday evening and the nostalgia set right in for my time that I lived there. The recollection of all the work I did when I lived there got me reinspired. We checked into our home away from home for the weekend at the Washington Court Hotel.
The hotel was in the most comparable location to all of the monument’s – which was great because I was planning to drag my husband around the city just as I’d done as an early twenty-something intern. The best part was, I’d been there before. This hotel was exactly where I’d meet my sweet Aunt Tressa, who worked at the American Federation of Teacher’s, just next door. I remember making my way over from the Longworth House Office building to meet her in the light-filled, four-story atrium lobby for lunch. Needless to say, that lobby greeted me like old times when I walked through the doors. I imagined my Aunt Tressa there with a warm hug and a pleasant smile. I felt right at home.
We checked into the presidential suite for the weekend. It turned out to be an excellent weekend pad for hosting a few friends too. The suite came equipped with a dining room, kitchen, living room, two bathrooms, and a master bedroom. The cool tones of the place welcomed us into the calm. Our view included that of the United States Capitol.
Every time I starred out of the window, I’d chuckle about the many Capitol tours that I took people on as an intern in Congressman Steve Cohen’s office. I was raised in Jackson, TN, but I grew up when I moved to D.C. It was the birth of my activism and passion for making changes in the world.
Friday evening after settling into the hotel, we made our way over to the Reach at the Kennedy Center for night one of the premiere of “Me and the Light.” We met people who’ve had a significant role in the making of the film and the entire Grounded project. We met stakeholders from First Lady Michelle Obama’s Turnaround Art’s Program and a few celebrities, the Black Violin, and Alfre Woodard, to name a few. Next, we went out to explore H Street. We ate dinner at H Street Country club, which I highly recommend for an entertaining night. We had good conversations with my best friend Amilca over drinks and nachos! Yes, the food is good, and the atmosphere is even better because it includes video games and miniature golf.
Then, we returned to the comfort of our humble abode at the Washington Court Hotel. The next morning, we were greeted by the sunrise over the monuments. We had breakfast at the hotel restaurant, and then made our way back out on the town. The hotel’s restaurant’s and bar served delicious delights all weekend. The staff was friendly and accommodating to our every need.
Saturday came and found ourselves back at the Kennedy Center, enjoying the Reach Opening Festival. The day’s festivities included a second viewing of “Me and The Light” which means we got to have the critical conversation all over again. Plus, I got to see my sister perform for a second time. We even saw a performance by the kids from Standing Rock perform a traditional dance.
Our time in D.C. was filled with the celebration of culture, and reminded me just how much I love the city! To top it off, we went to experience the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture. It was my third time going and Alex’s first. In all honesty, you could easily spend about three months in there learning. When we travel, we enjoy mixing education and fun with family and friends. This 48-hour trip was just what we needed.
GUEST PHOTO CONTEST ALERT: The Washington Court Hotel is currently hosting a challenge for those who’ve visited them. For a chance to win two night weekend stay with free parking and more, ENTER HERE: http://bit.ly/2E7NnPd
WASHINGTON COURT HOTEL DEAL OF THE DAY: Book Direct & Get Complimentary Parking (Friday & Saturday Nights) http://bit.ly/2RMxXan
For more D.C. recommendations from this particular trip, see below.
Watergate Hotel Rooftop
Park on 14th
National Museum of African American History and Culture Tickets are available each morning at 6:30 a.m. Set your alarm, and pick your time. You won’t regret it.