Ariana Alyce Curtis

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Ariana discusses her family history with a Panamanian father and black mother, with her and her siblings being classified as Afro-Latino/a(s). She discusses the factors that contributed towards shaping her identity as Afro-Latina: community, family, scholar-hood, and traveling experiences. She shares memories that compare her experiences as being Afro-Latina in the South of the United States and contrasts them to experiences in other parts of the U.S. as well as world. She focuses a significant part of the interview on her experience as a curator in the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum, focusing her exhibit on Latino studies. In her exhibit and research, she uses the museum space to share the stories of Latinos in general. She incorporates and analyzes trends on migration, examines history to make predictions on migration in four specific migration gateways, and shares her findings publicly for free in museum exhibits.



Terrell Brown: Hi, I am Terrell Brown and I am here with Ariana. Thank you again for allowing us to have this interview and taking time out of your busy schedule to come and do this as well. So if you don’t mind, maybe just starting with an introductory statement with your name, maybe where you are from, along those lines?

Ariana Curtis: Sure. My name is Ariana Curtis. I am from Western Massachusetts. I was born in raised and raised Springfield, well outside of Springfield, a town called East Lawn Meadow. My dad is from Panama. He was raised mostly in New York. My mother is from New York and I’m one of four children. I currently live in Washington D.C. I am a curator for the Smithsonian.

TB: Great. And today is February 26th and we are located at Duke University. And we’ll be talking about the reflections and experiences on the identity of Afro-Latino/a(s). So great, thank you for sharing. So what is your family composition kind of composed of?

AC: So I am the youngest of four kids. My dad is from Panama. My grandmother came--so my dad and--he is one of six. All of his brothers and sisters were born in Panama and mostly raised in the U.S. He came when he was young. My mother is African-American. She was born and raised in the U.S. She is from Brooklyn New York. She is very proud of that, she’ll tell you. They met in New York. My oldest brother was born in New York. They kind of moved around a little bit. My second brother, and my sister were born in a different town in Massachusetts, North Hampton, which is closer to U Mass Hampshire College and Rush College, around there. I was born in Springfield, Massachusetts and we lived in the same house my entire life. So I was born in raised in Western Massachusetts.

TB: How would you identify? Or how do you identify?

AC: [00:01:57] I identify as black and I always make a point when it is appropriate. I just don’t go around telling everybody about my family history. But letting people know that both of my parents are black. My mother is African-American and my dad is Panamanian. So we didn’t-- I grew up in a house knowing that my dad--I mean we knew that my dad was an immigrant, sometimes we would make jokes, but we were kids. We would think that they were funny as a kid. Like, “We are going to turn you in, let us see your green card.” So we knew that he was foreign. My mom would make fun of him sometimes. In the summer especially, my dad just looked very Caribbean. So he would be out grilling in just like jean shorts and like a white tank top and his gold chain like his sandals. Mom was like: “Oh my gosh, if anybody walked by, they could tell you are not from here.” His name was Rolando, but our last name was Curtis. So most people actually knew my dad or knew something about him, or saw the Panamanian flag in his car. They probably just thought he was just an African-American man.

TB: How would you define community?

AC: Community-- it’s a shared concept and I think that it changes depending on the context. [00:03:03] But I do think that the essence of community is that it is something human and something shared.

TB: Could you describe the community you lived in when you were younger?

AC: Like where I grew up?

TB: Yes.

AC: So I grew up in a town called East Lawn… ( ) Massachusetts. It was---It probably still is ninety percent something white. So we were already one of the very few families of color. That was not the environment that my parents grew up in. They both grew up in New York, so it was important to them for the extra-curricular activity that we did, and kind of our social circle was outside of that town. [00:03:45] They didn’t want that to be our only reality. They wanted us to associate with other people of color, where I grew up in Western Massachusetts. Now it’s probably like fifty percent Puerto Rican. But there was definitely a strong Puerto Rican presence even when I was younger. So it is pretty mixed; African-American, Puerto Rican was the dominant Latino, and white. So we did things like the MLK community center. So a lot of the extra curricular stuff that we did was in school with people, outside of school, with people of color. Our school environment was--we were like one of the few families of color in the town.

TB: Did you ever feel as though in these different environments, whether it was school, home, that your African or Latin origins dominated the other?

AC: [pause] I think being black was just always part of everything. And I look back now-- I mean I knew it when I was younger. You know my mom was very social justice oriented. So we would go to Free Mandela rallies. We would wear cross colors. We had like the Africa medallions. We had the “black is beautiful” sweatshirts. And we would wear these to our predominantly white schools. It just didn’t matter, that was who we were. But I think I-- not until I kind of left Massachusetts, that I really realized that [pause], it was not more effort to me. To me it didn’t it didn’t feel more African American than Latino. It was always kind of this global blackness that my mother was about and kind of educated us in that way. Because we knew my dad was not born in this country and he doesn’t have an accent really but if you talked to some of his brothers or sisters. If you talked to my grandmother, we were constantly reminded that they weren’t from this country. [00:05:30] So it just never felt more Latino or more African-American. It just always felt black. If that makes sense.

TB: Could you describe a typical dinner with your family?

AC: Like what did we eat?

TB: How you interacted at the dinner table? What you ate?

AC: Well there was six of us. So it was always pretty loud. My parents always made a point that we had dinner together. We would sit at the table every night. So my oldest brother is nine years older than I am. So when he went to college, I was in elementary school. I would say we ate--ya know like--what I’d consider normal food. My mom did most of the cooking when we were growing up. Now my parents really share that. [pause]. I would say as far as anything that seemed a little out of the ordinary. We would generally have yellow rice and beans. We just called it Spanish rice, like for holidays. So Thanksgiving, there would be like turkey, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, and yellow rice. Ya know… Spanish. My grandmother would always come; she would always make that for us. So I think the rice and beans were probably the only-- like “What’s going on here?” Although I will say this actually came up recently in the Smithsonian talk that we had. We are talking about immigration and our group was having like, “When you felt different.” “When you were in school and kind of knew you were different.” This kind of goes to your question on Latinidad versus blackness. So I took Spanish in high school. I wasn’t raised speaking Spanish in my house and there are always those cultural lessons at the end of the chapter. So it was a food lesson and it was about plátanos. And so we grew up saying plátano. My mom says plátano. Everybody says plátano. And it was talking about how people fry bananas and eat them. Everyone was like, “Oh that is so gross.” “Who would fry bananas?” “Why would you do that?” I mean, they’re not bananas, the way you are thinking of bananas. I actually didn’t know plantain was a word. ( ) it is of the banana family, just a little bit different. And I was like, “Oh, not everyone eats these.” “Ya know, like people might not have plátanos, avocados, rice, and beans in their house like we do.” But I didn’t think that was different until this book told me that, this was something that people in Latin America did.

TB: Okay. What factors did you think contributed towards shaping your identity?

AC: [00:07:56] I think definitely growing up in a predominantly white environment. I mean for sure. So I never--We always knew that we were different and we didn’t take that as less than. We didn’t take that as any type of judgment measure. We’re just like, “These people are not necessarily how we are.” We also spent a lot of time in New York with my parent’s families. [00:08:18] So my parents would be like the only ones that moved to Massachusetts, so just that reality of knowing that East Long Meadow, Massachusetts from Springfield Massachusetts wasn’t representative of the whole world. New York, being as chaotic and diverse as it is, that was something we were accustomed to seeing. So I think we always have this sense of… One blackness is global and two as context, as important. So my school environment was different than my extra-curricular environment, which was different from my familial environment. We kind of knew as you traveled into different spaces, you would just be around different kinds of people. And that was just how we were.

TB: Outside your family environment, were there any ways you could preserve your blackness or being Latina, outside your home environment?

AC: (Pause) I don’t think it was an initial preservation so much. I mean--Actually I wonder now whether or not people knew that my dad was Latino because we were the only family of color. It was just as easy to be like--, “The black family or the African-American family.” So my name is Ariana, but my brothers and sisters are Brian, Derrick, and ( ). So it wasn’t necessarily that our names were identity markers. It was very densely Puerto-Rican outside the town where I grew up and so it just was a pretty normal thing. I think that there was a lot more interaction amongst people outside of this predominantly town where we lived in. I think it was something I was telling Felicia; [00:09:48] it wasn’t something that I really had to articulate until I came to North Carolina.

TB: How is your job as a curator affected your perspective of Afro-Latinidad?

AC: It has definitely (pause) challenged some assumptions. I just didn’t think that my parental make-up was as exotic as people think that it is. There were a lot of people who had like a Puerto-Rican parent and a white parent or Puerto parent and a black parent or two black Puerto-Ricans. I mean, there were just so many different ways you can be Afro-Latino that it certainly took more explaining to some people outside the Latino community than I have ever imagined would be necessary. But also because I’m curator of Latino history and culture, I want to make sure that I include Afro-Latino’s stories even if it’s something specifically about Afro-Latino’s. [00:10:45] I think that’s been the hardest balance, is that you want to be able to say yes this community counts, and yes this community is important. I don’t think we should constantly separate Afro-Latinos from black stories or from Latino stories. It has been kind of awareness… One that Afro-Latino can mean a whole lot of different things. It can mean someone like me who has one parent from Latin America and one African-American parent. You can have two parents from Latin American countries and they could be from completely different countries and different cultures but you are still kind of grouped into this one Afro-Latino category. So it is just making sure that I think--with my job--making sure that I’m specific, as much as possible about what people’s culture heritages are, what their nationalities are, maybe what there citizenships are, but just making sure that I am including Afro-Latinos stories throughout the work that I do and not as a separate segment of the work that I do.

TB: Are there any objects, specific smells, memories that resonate with you when you illustrate your identity?

AC: I guess plátano [laughs] is one. I have to say that when I met other people from the Northeast, like one of my friends, she is from Brooklyn. She calls it plátano and she eats it in her house, so it is kind of more of ‘who your circle is,’ ‘who your network is.’ Her best friend is Puerto-Rican, so-- I don’t think that is why she knows plátano. So depending on where you grew up and whom you were around-- let me think [pause]. When I did my dissertation fieldwork, I did it in Panama. [00:12:24] That definitely--I think changed one-- the way I say things because different countries have different words for the same food. So tostones in Panama are patacones. So when I came back from Panama, I kept calling everything patacones, and I was like, “Oh yea, they are tostones here.” And they were like, “You’re Panamanian.” There are certain markers that are more nationality than just a general Latinidad. So I came back saying ( ) and people were like, “What is that?” I’m trying to think of things that remind me of my dad. Guayaberas… more dress stuff... joyerías… are very Panamanian. Guayaberas are very Caribbean. I guess rice and beans.

TB: How long did you spend in Panama?

AC: A year.

TB: Do you think your time in Panama shaped your identity more, explore your identity more? What did you take away from the experience?

AC: Prior to going and staying a year, I’ve only been once or twice, mostly for research. Like for pre-dissertation research. The country that I spend the most time in was previously Cuba. And so people would joke, “You are actually Cuban, not Panamanian.” So I felt like it helped me solidify my Panamanianess [laugh]. [00:13:41] It was just nice because a lot of family lives there, to just spend constant time with them. So I stayed there for Christmas, for New Years, like Semana Santa-- just celebrating all these Panamanian holidays with them and really just having family time. I think not necessarily more Panamanian, but made me feel much more connected to my family.

TB: So in these different parts of Latin America and the Caribbean, through your experiences, were there any similarities, differences or what you thought connected you more to Afro-Latinidad if that makes sense?

AC: I have to say that traveling throughout Latin America, wherever I’ve gone, people generally think that I am from there. I think that is because I’ve learned Spanish in school, so I don’t have a strong accent in a particular way that would give me away. So when I was in Cuba, people thought I was Cuban. When I was in Puerto Rico, people thought I was Puerto-Rican. When I was in Panama, people thought I was Panamanian, except for the people who thought I was Cuban. But I just thought it was interesting that in the United States because I’m black, a lot of people assume that I’m not Latina. But going in Latin America, people--when I was in Mexico, people thought I was Dominican. Like people don’t assume that you’re not Latin American. [00:14:53] So I think I just felt more connected to Latin America in that way. You know, that my blackness was not something that excluded me from these experiences. It wasn’t just Afro-Latinos who were just coming up and talking to us, it was as if you were from there, it was pretty much anybody. It was just, “Okay, this is nice, even though I can’t answer your questions at all, it is nice that you think I should be able to,” so that is always fun.

TB: Why is African heritage of Latin America migrants living in the United States and the new destinations in the U.S. South important?

AC: [00:15:27] In my experience, we don’t do a good job about global education and U.S. education. I think that it surprises people that you can be black and from somewhere else. I think having that just kind of fundamental knowledge that other countries are also diverse, right? Not even just with blackness. There are Asians in Latin America. Black people in Latin America aren’t only descendants of slaves, in a way that not all black people in the United States are descendants of slaves. There is a certain amount of agency when these people decide to move to these countries. I think just being able to talk about histories of other countries and why those people from these diverse countries with these rich histories might come to the United States kind of starts building a base of commonality. I think race is -- an especially powerful thing in the South. So having some understanding of what the racial make-up is, of countries-- just lends to some similarity of human experiences.

TB: As an Afro-Latina in Maryland and then having perspective in the South, specifically North Carolina, would you say that there are similar experiences in regards to Afro-Latinidad?

AC: I mean the Latino population in Maryland is longer. Ya know, people have been there a bit longer than North Carolina and where I live, it’s pretty heavily Dominican. So for me, there is still a strong-- the Salvadorian are the largest Latino population in the DC metro area. There are still pockets of Caribbean Latinos, so I don’t generally feel like there are people who don’t understand me, or don’t have the same Latinidad that I have. In North Carolina, it’s just a younger population. And people still, in my experience, very much associate Latinos with Mexicans. So to be Latina here, especially now, would--. So I came in ninety-eight. I went to Duke from ninety-eight to two thousand two and it was-- it was just all these things that I wasn’t used to having to explain. “‘Oh, you’re Catholic?” “Like black people are Catholic?” “Ohh…” “Oh your dad is from where?” Someone actually just asked me where Panamanian was? I was like, “It is Panama, a country in central America.” I don’t think there is all that explanation necessarily in Maryland. It is a more diverse Latino population and also people have been there a lot longer. And so I think even then, the non-Latinos community is a little bit more accustomed to seeing Latino’s of different colors, of seeing Latinos from different countries. North Carolina, when I came, it just wasn’t---- It was still a very new thing.

TB: Can you tell me about your exhibit you are currently curating involving the U.S. south?

AC: So I am working on an exhibit called ‘Gateways’ and it is about Latino migration and immigration in Washington D.C, Baltimore, the Triangle area, and in Charlotte. So those are the four cities because they are places that have experienced growth in the Latino population and the Latino population, not just immigrants, but also just Latino migrants. Especially in the South people are turning into young professionals because it is. People can afford to buy houses--the cities are growing. Ya know… pretty large rights. There are professional polls that are drawing people there. Each city is called ‘The Gateway’ because for immigrant gateways, each of these places have grown--kind of in different periods for different reasons. So Baltimore as a North East port city had a really rich immigration history starting in the 1800’s and it kind of plateaued and it is experiencing population decline, the way a lot of African-American cities were and still is. There has been a growth in the Latino population there, particularly immigrant population there. As kind of going back to these neighborhoods that were known as immigrant neighborhoods for Easter Europeans, Germans, when there was a stronger immigrant community there. So it is considered a reemerging gateway. It wasn’t an immigrant gateway that kind of fell off again. It is also a sanctuary city. So there is a lot of incentives for undocumented people to settle there without penalty more or less. Ya know a situation that is as tense just as it is in North Carolina; this is being fought in Maryland as well. Washington D.C. emerged as a place of ( ), where population after WW2. Ya know… with the growth of the federal government, you really started to see more and more people come to the nation’s capital. So starting in the fifties, starting with the Latino population, there are a lot of documentaries and books that show how the migrations from Latin America follow U.S. foreign policy. Sixties, seventies, the Salvadorians are the largest starting in the eighties during their civil war. With the Carolina’s, the South was the place that had the lowest number of foreign born populations in the country. [00:20:31] When you talk about immigrants, you are kind of talking about bi-coastal and a certain amount in the mid-west, in the South, not including Florida. But you are seeing this extreme growth in the South, the triangle area is considered a minor emerging gateway. So where we used to talk about Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill as one metro area, each city in of itself is growing, but not as quickly as the area as a whole. So minor gateway. Charlotte, on the other hand, is one of the fastest growing cities in the country, period. So that is considered a major emerging gateway but these two places are kind of growing at the same time. So that was a long response to why these four places--because as we talk about urban growth, Latino population growth, immigration, we always to take into account the context in which people are coming, the receiving community and what kind of services have been set up before people arrive and when they start coming. In the South, you are seeing these things being set up in the nineties--in the nineties, early two thousands as opposed as to places like Baltimore and DC that had a certain amount of immigration, much earlier. So social services set up infrastructure… just receiving communities that were able to absorb this population growth in a way that culturally the South had not experienced previously. [00:21:51] So the exhibition in of itself is set up to talk about civil rights and social justice, to talk about how people make home and make community, what kind of everyday things they do when they are deciding, ‘Okay, is this somewhere I can stay’ Is this somewhere my kids can to school? Education is obviously a large part of Latino legislation now. Not just immigration reform, but you are talking about DREAM Act and DACA. What kind of possibilities will people have if they continue to stay? And that is when you start to see differences in states. So what’s possible in Maryland and maybe going to the University of Maryland is not necessarily possible in North Carolina in going to the University of North Carolina. So education opportunities change with state lines. And the last part of the exhibition is about organized celebration. So how long have these big festivals been going on? What’s there purpose? What kind of diversity do they show about the Latino community? What kind of education do they give about the Latino community to non-Latinos in those areas? What shape does that take? So in the face of all of this injustice, in all of this uncertainty about how people are making home and community, still people find a reason to celebrate. There is always a meaning and reason behind it.

TB: So you touched on a little bit in an answer, but why do you think this important to U.S. history?

AC: We are making history now, right? I mean… the Latino community in the United States is growing so rapidly in everyone is talking about immigration, which is important, but the actual growth is happening from U.S. born Latinos. We are talking about citizens, we are talking about re-shaping an area of the country. This is really re-shaping the U.S. South, as well as Baltimore, as well as Washington D.C. Although my exhibition is only about these four places, you are seeing it all over the south: Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Atlanta. Even when we talk about Miami, it is not just a Cuban city anymore. So I think this is just really giving a lot of attention to the Latino population and just showing the diversity of that and showing that this is a national issue. [00:23:53] Whereas before when you talked about immigration, you would think of particular places. Now this is something that touches everywhere.

TB: Can receiving art to be in your exhibit, has that played more of a part-- or created a personal connection between you and this project? Like in relation to your identity?

AC: It does. One of the things is funny is that being that I am a curator of Latino history and culture--. I know that sometimes I go into a space and a person doesn’t think I am Latina, I just kind of go with it. Yesterday I had a meeting and the guy starting talking to someone in Spanish and so I interjected something. And he was like, “Pero tú hablas español?” And I was like, “Sí yo soy Latina,” and he was like, “No lo sabía,” and so we had just had this whole hour meeting. It’s fine, but I understand that generally it is because I am black that people don’t think that I am Latina except if they know anything about Panama. A lot of Panamanians have English last names from West Indian immigration ( ) to the canal. So my dad being Rolando Curtis is completely normal. For people who know anything about Panama or Panamanians, me being Ariana Curtis For people it is, “Tú eres Panameña,” that makes sense, that is why that is your name. And I’m like, “No no no, my brothers and sisters don’t have Spanish names.” But I think it has created more of a sense of Latinidad for me because people that I am interviewing aren’t necessarily Caribbean. It is kind of outside my general--dissertation research area, which was Panamanians. A lot of the scholarship I did was about Caribbean Latinos. But now just like, ya know-- feeling comfortable interviewing Mexicans, Salvadorians-- [00:25:48] having people looking at me like ‘We are Latinos together.’ I think that has created a little bit more of a change in me in who I think accepts me as Latina, just on face value, not necessarily for who I am as a person. I think it is also expanding to people that I interview and the people I interact with, the concept who does work on Latinos, what that looks like and what those curators and researchers looks like and a little bit about my history as well.

TB: Okay. Do you have anything else you would like to share? Maybe about yourself, the work you do, the experiences you’ve gone through--you feel are important or pertinent to put into context with the rest of this interview?

AC: [pause] I’m trying to think. No I think-- I know when I took my position, or when I started my position… I had to correct people a lot because they would say, “This is Ariana, she is the curator of Afro-Latino history and culture.” Like, “No, I am a curator of Latino history and culture, which includes Afro-Latinos, but is not limited to that.” So I think that has still been my stance and I know I’ve had conversations with other Afro-Latino like, “I’m so happy that you are in the Smithsonian, people are finally paying attention to us.” So I feel conflicted sometimes by not doing projects that are not just about Afro-Latinos because there are so few. [00:27:17] But I really just believe in my heart that in order for people to see Afro-Latinos as Latinos, as Americans, as black people in this country, that I can’t always just be about Afro-Latinos. And I’m like, if it is never just about Afro-Latinos, how are we telling their story too? So that is just kind of a professional conflict that I have. But yea... I’m trying to think of anything else, especially related to the project in North Carolina. Was there any tangent that I went off that you wanted me to answer your question more directly?

TB: [pause] I guess I asked, through working with other families, obtaining art, being a curator, and working with these families, have you seen a growth or a different mindset in your identity? Like doing work in the field, being a professional, being a scholar, having a PhD at this point. Do you still gradual growth through your experiences in figuring your identity out? I guess along those lines.

AC: I think a lot of my scholarship has been more about Latin America in the Caribbean, more so than all of Latin America. You can’t just specialize on the whole area, however being the only person at my museum that does Latino history and culture; I’ve really had to broaden my areas of knowledge. And broaden my knowledge of countries that maybe I hadn’t studied as deeply. And because, especially Washington DC is so pan-Latino; there are people from absolutely everywhere in the world, everywhere in Latin America. I need education myself to know something about the home country, about why people are coming, about when they came. So it has certainly forced me to broaden what I consider my area of expertise to be very generally Latino. Because we just don’t have the luxury of saying, this is Ariana, our curator of Caribbean-American, or like Caribbean-Latino, it’s all Latino. So I have to be prepared to interview Peruvians, Salvadorians, Panamanians, Bolivians, and people with strong indigenous heritage from Latin America. Not just from a more recent-- I think that is making me a better scholar, right? You just have to think through all the things you may not know about someone and how you ask questions that you’re learning the most but still giving them the space to talk about what is uniquely them. That has been---I think that largest growth.

TB: Do you find it difficult to separate your professional expertise, if there is ever an interference with your personal identity?

AC: There have definitely been times where people have said something that I don’t flat out agree with or know not to be true. I think it has been professional growth. I would consider professional growth to kind of hold my tongue and let the person speak. When I interview people and they tell me there is no racism in Latin America, its classism, it is not the same thing; everybody loves everybody in Latin America. So I will listen and if they ask me what I think, I will tell them what I think, that there is racism in Latin America [laughing]. There is classism too, just like there is racism and classism in the United States. I think that it’s hard because that is that person’s truth and that is what we are doing.-- [00:31:19] I do try and create those spaces to have conversation about those kinds of things because I think it also is professionally irresponsible to leave a space when someone has articulated those kinds of thoughts and not say anything when you know that is not true. That’s been difficult. I think that’s just personal growth [laughs].

TB: So you mentioned it various times, but I just want to make sure that there is nothing else you had to share with it. Was there a specific inspiration that inspired to be a curator at the Smithsonian and take on this project in specific, along those lines?

AC: So I was actually doing policy work before I applied for this job at the Smithsonian. I just really wanted to graduate--I graduated a program with race, gender, and social justice. I just wanted to feel like my qualitative training was directly improving lives of people of color. [00:32:14] For that, I guess to your first question, when I can talk about my community, I really do consider blacks and Latinos as my core community. This is something I know about personally, professionally, and I feel like my skills in my life can help someone, this would be first line. Not only, but first line. So I was doing policy work particularly around food insecurity, food stamps, and SNAP program. Like NSF grants to women, not just women of color, but kind of evaluating NSF policy. I just felt like, where are people suffering? Where are things changing? A lot of it was community based organizations and food security. I was doing a lot of qualitative interviews around that. I saw this job posted for a curator of Latino studies at the Anacostia community museum. So it is the only community museum in the Smithsonian system. If it hadn’t been at that museum, I probably wouldn’t have applied for the job. I do community based work. I like to interview people. I like to be able to put people’s personal stories into these contexts. That is my qualitative training and my skills as a scholar. This is what I enjoy doing and if I’m able to do this and actually share in a way where people see it [laughs], that is even better. So doing the policy work, I felt like I was doing good work, but who is going to read this? Like policy makers, are they going to change their minds as opposed to museum work, which just really--- I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before? I constantly go to museums everywhere I go. But we are generally trained to write like the products of the research are papers, but now the products of what I do is… one, publicly accessible. So all the research and everything we do, anyone can look at. And two… it’s visually accessible. So maybe if you don’t want to read this dense scholarly paper, you can walk around a museum. We don’t write at a college level for the exhibition levels, so it is actually accessible language and it is also visual. There are images, objects that go along with it. It is open to more interpretation then a paper. Also with the Smithsonian, it is free. I think that is the thing, for me, the biggest draw of my job. Actually anybody can come and see your work. Actually someone can come and talk to you about it. And I’ve had people ask at the front desk, “Oh, is Ariana here?” Because it is a public space, they’ll call me at my desk and say, “Oh so and so wants to talk you about this exhibition you have done here.” And it’s like… publicly accessibility really means public accessibility. I think that is just accountability to researchers and scholars about the work that we do. If we say it is for everybody, actually it can be. And that just as we are giving information, it’s out there and people can tell us, we can receive immediate--sometimes very immediate feedback about that. So I wasn’t… I didn’t graduate thinking, ‘Oh I want to be a curator or work at a museum.’ Once I started doing it, I was like, “This is the best of everything.” You are able to be a scholar, you are able to be an educator, and you are able to have that community engagement. I thought I would miss the classroom. I still work with students a lot through interns, volunteers, and different fellowship programs. I mean there is no one that we really don’t have access to or get to work with. The fact so much of the Smithsonian is publicly accessible and free is really the best part of it. So I think working at the community museum was the best entrance I could have for museum work.

TB: Well thank you. Anything else again that you wanted to share?

AC: No, I think I talked a lot.

TB: No, you’re great. Thank you again for your insight, experiences, and your time as well. It is greatly appreciated.