In this difficult time for our community, we are all rightfully focused on the history that is happening before our eyes. But National Park Service partners devoted to our country’s past also have crucial roles to play.

The Friends of Peirce Mill strive to tell the mill’s full story, including the painful legacy of enslavement on Peirce Plantation. We’ve heard the call “Say their names,” and realize this demand applies to us too. We’re committed to making sure park visitors learn stories of the enslaved and free African Americans, including William Beckett and Anne Marie Rustin, who worked on Peirce Plantation before and after the Civil War. We’ll also ensure that Hattie Sewell, the African-American woman whose contract to run a teahouse at the mill was wrongfully cancelled exactly 100 years ago, is not forgotten.

Yet even as a history-focused organization, we’re also thinking about the future. The Friends of Peirce Mill and the National Park Service organize public events at the mill, barn, and orchard, such as our popular summer square dance and fall Heritage Day. These programs have always been free and open to all. But we want to do a better job of reaching out to the entire community, and making sure that everyone feels safe and welcome in Rock Creek Park.

While the mill is currently closed and we’ve had to cancel public events, it has given us time to reflect, plan, and develop new programs with the National Park Service. This month, the Friends of Peirce Mill are working with NPS, the Rock Creek Conservancy, and the Washington Studio School to organize Create by the Creek, a socially-distant celebration of art and community–and an invitation to all Washingtonians to make art inspired by Rock Creek Park.

Nathan Marzoli