Washington's African American Community Gathers at the National Zoo to Celebrate a Century-Old Tradition on Easter Monday

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Friends of the National Zoo will host the free event “Easter Monday: Celebrating the African American Family” April 13, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Since the 1890s, the Monday after Easter has been an unofficial holiday—a day of rest and recreation for many local African American families and a Washington tradition that spans more than 111 years.

Rich in culture and history, the Zoo and FONZ will welcome thousands of visitors from Washington’s African American community with a variety of activities and live entertainment. This year’s celebration will feature the traditional Easter activities for families, such as an Easter egg hunt, Easter-themed games and a visit from the Easter bunny! Live entertainment will include African storytelling and performances by an a cappella gospel quintet, a Caribbean and reggae band, a steel-drum band, a dance team, and a double-dutch jump rope team.

In honor of the work and life of civil rights’ activist Rosa Parks, the Pathways to Freedom—The Peace Quilt will be displayed for visitors to trace the various civil rights and freedom trails, as well as the important events in Parks’ life. The quilt was specially created for the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Pathways to Freedom Chapter of the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute of Self Development, an organization co-founded by Parks to continue her legacy. The quilt is the concept of Ella McCall-Haygan, a personal friend of Parks and regional director of the institute. It was made and designed by international award-winning quilt-maker Geri V. Ford. McCall-Haygan will be on hand to share Parks’ story.

In addition, animal keepers will host talks, feedings and 41 demonstrations highlighting a variety of animals, including cheetahs, western lowland gorillas, bald eagles, spectacled bears, kiwis and Asian elephants.

The 2009 “Easter Monday: Celebrating the African American Family” event is sponsored by WHUR 96.3 FM and the Botswana Tourism Board.

2009 African American Family Celebration Activity Schedule

Children’s Easter Activities (Ongoing at Great Meadow)

  • Easter egg hunt
  • Easter bunny
  • Organized field games and activities
  • Arts and crafts
  • Arcade games
  • Rosa Parks Pathways to Freedom—The Peace Quilt showcase and storytelling

Live Entertainment (Lion/Tiger Hill from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

  • DJ George of Talk of the Town (11 a.m.-4 p.m.)
  • Mutual Agreement—a cappella gospel quintet (11 a.m.)
  • Webb Elementary School Dance Team (11:40 a.m.)
  • Lara Family and Friends Steel Drum Team (12:15 p.m.)
  • Baba Jamal Koram—master storyteller in the oral history and tradition of West African cultures and music (2 p.m.)
  • Fan Fan/Global Beat 101—Caribbean and reggae music (3:15 p.m.)

Special Keeper Talks (Various locations throughout the Zoo)

In addition to the usual schedule of keeper talks, animal feedings and demos that take place each day throughout the Zoo, Zoo staff from a variety of exhibits will make special presentations to guests that will include touchable animal artifacts, such as pelts, feathers and claws, and videos highlighting Zoo animals and careers.

Additional Activities

  • Create-a-Critter (in front of Lemur Island)
  • Double-dutch jump roping (noon-2p.m. at various locations throughout the Zoo)
  • Food court (across from Mane Restaurant)