Washington D.C. is "not just a federal city," said producer/director Michelle Parkerson. " There's another city in the shadow of the Capitol".
Beginning Monday, Parkerson's "Urban Odyssey" relates the city's ethnic history in the form of programs focused on individuals. The seven half-hour shows air consecutive weeknights at 9 p.m. on WHMM.
The "Urban Odyssey" stories revolve around poet Sterling Brown and educator Nannie Helen Burroughs from the African-American community; Rev. Nicholas De Carlo, and the city's Italians; Jewish leader Isaac Frank; Rev. C.C. Hung of the Chinese community; Salvadoran educator Carmen Monico, and Jamaican leader Lillian Walker.
Local actors portray the community leaders in one-person shows, and their portrayals are interspersed with archival photographs and videotape of the neighborhoods today.
Marking the District's 200th anniversary, "Urban Odyssey" is sponsored by the D.C. Community Humanities Council (DCCHC), an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The actors will take their shows to public schools, churches, housing projects and ANC meetings this spring.
In May, the council plans a conference on the city's diverse immigrant groups. Smithsonian Institution Press will publish a book on the subject next year.
Parkerson grew up in Anacostia, and went to high school at the Academy of Our Lady in the District and studied film and television at Temple University. She returned to Washington, working at WRC-TV and WTTG-TYV from 1975-1981. She has produced documentaries on jazz singer Betty Carter and Sweet Honey in the Rock, a District-based a capella group.