Some day, those of us who sat in the St. George’s Episcopal Church basement last Saturday will be able to say we heard Dimery Mowery back when she was an 18-year-old high school senior. Her singing and presence were that powerful.
Singing two spirituals in the classical style that Marian Anderson made famous (accompanied by Pamela Alexander, the church’s organist and choir director), Dimery grabbed the spotlight, as far as I’m concerned – and I don’t believe I’m alone. But her fellow artists at the show rocked as well.
Natalie Hopkinson, associate editor of The Root, a webzine published by the Washington Post, read from “Deconstructing Tyrone,” a book exploring of black masculinity that she wrote with Natalie Y. Moore – a complicated subject that I’m eager to read in full.
Natalie also spoke of her growing ties to Bloomingdale – and by extension our own BACA corner of Shaw, as far as I’m concerned. The subject is on her mind: she’s writing about a rediscovered novel of the 1920s, “When Washington Was in Vogue,” apparently set in this part of town.
Fittingly, the atmosphere of artistic and intellectual ferment running through the book was echoed in the church basement.
Photographer Jason Miccolo Johnson, a longtime BACA-area neighbor, gave a talk, a performance really, that wove together his life story, his decades of work, and his latest published project – “Soul Sanctuary: Images of the African American Worship Experience.” He dove deep into culture and history and managed to be entertaining at the same time – no mean feat. The book is spectacular.
Sylvia Jackson, a watercolorist, jewelry maker and clothing designer, displayed some of her work and spoke with great sensitivity and precision about integrating art and life.
Jennifer Ashburn, a pastor, and griot, among other vocations, gave a spellbinding dramatic reading of children’s stories.
And writer Rosemarie Onwukwe spoke of her growing up between the U.S. and Nigeria – and of her forthcoming book on Bloomingdale.
Mary Ann Wilmer, the event’s main organizer, is talking about making this an annual event. If the first event is any indication of the talent pool we’ve got around here, it’s a great idea.