The exhibition highlighted two very different aspects of African American life and culture. United in the Spirit…. focuses on worship in Alexandria’s African American community, while Crown Me! looks at the social life of one group of African American men and a traditional American pastime still holding on, in spite of the growth of technology based entertainment.
Nina Tisara: United in the Spirit….
United in the Spirit: Photographs of Worship in Alexandria's African American Churches, black and white photographs by Nina Tisara, was first exhibited at the Alexandria Black History Resource Center (now the Alexandria Black History Museum) in 1995, the result of more than a year's work, the photographs portray people in 15 congregations in Alexandria engaged in prayer and song and as participants in baptisms, communions, Bible study, Sunday school and commemorative services.
Nina Tisara has become known to Alexandrians for her sensitive and artistic photographic work. Since her beginnings as as a freelance photojournalist she has had a number of one-woman shows and received many awards including three “Alex Awards” and the 1989 Woman to Woman Award for outstanding achievement in cultural affairs and the arts. In 1990, she opened Tisara Photography on King Street. Tisara is now project director of Living Legends of Alexandria, an on-going, not-for-profit project to identify, honor, and chronicle the people making history in Alexandria today.
Asked about her feelings on exhibiting the work after 15 years, Tisara said the photo documentary studies of worship in Alexandria were among the most meaningful and interesting projects of her career. “It is fascinating to revisit those faces and scenes. As an artist, I am always somewhat sad when an exhibition comes down and the images are relegated to a shelf or closet. It is gratifying to have them shown again, especially now that there a patina of history about them.”
Peggy Fleming: Crown Me!
Peggy Fleming is a photographer and in the MA Documentary Film program at American University. For three years Peggy photographed and interviewed the men in the Capital Pool Checkers Club. CROWN ME! published in 2010, is a book of portraits and text about 24 members of the Capital Pool Checkers Club. “AT 9th & S” is a ten-minute award winning video she produced of the club.
In 1994, Fleming retired from the National Park Service; she was a Park Ranger Naturalist in Rock Creek Park. Fleming was a member of Multiple Exposures Gallery in the Torpedo Factory Art Center for 17 years. From California, she has lived in Washington DC since 1959.
THE CAPITAL POOL CHECKERS CLUB is at 9th and S Streets, NW in the Shaw neighborhood in Washington, DC. The club began in this location when the barbershop the men played in closed due to metro construction, in the early ‘80s. Each member pays dues, has a key and comes to the club to play competitive checkers, for camaraderie, to share in ‘trash talking’, to relax.
The Club is an affiliate of the American Pool Checkers Association. The men participate in regional and national tournaments in different cities throughout the year. Saturday afternoons into the early hours of Sunday morning is when the club is liveliest.
“Hello brother” greets each man as he enters. The men know one another by their “handles”, their “checker names”: The Shark, Boy Wonder, The Weasel, The Hawk, The Stealer, Butt Kicker. Back and forth trash talking takes place as the men try to distract one another. The men live in Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia.