Didn’t score tickets to enter the long-awaited National Museum of African American History and Culture on its opening weekend this month? You’ll have to sit on the sidelines. But, as it turns out, that will be a pretty great place to be.

The museum is hosting a free three-day, two-night festival (Sept. 23-25) near the museum that will transform a corner of the Mall into a block party that will rock with the sounds of legendary hip-hop group Public Enemy, the Roots and D.C. go-go stars Experience Unlimited, among others.

The museum today announced the schedule and line-up for its “Freedom Sounds: A Community Celebration” festival, and it includes two nights of concerts, Sept. 24 and 25 from 6 to 9 p.m. Public Enemy, rockers Living Colour and the Roots will perform Sept. 24, and Experience Unlimited will join D.C. native Meshell Ndegeocello and a yet-to-be-announced performer on the festival’s closing night, Sept. 25.

ublic Enemy’s appearance isn’t that surprising: Among the thousands of objects in the new museum is one of the hip-hop crew’s banners, designed by rapper Chuck D, a one-time graphic design student. The rhythmic dance music go-go, considered Washington’s native musical form, will also command space within the museum, and among the quotes decorating its walls is one from Questlove, the instantly recognizable Roots drummer and author.

The three-day festival, which will take place on the Washington Monument grounds between 15th and 17th streets NW,  begins Friday, Sept. 23 (the day before the museum opens to the public), and returns for the next two days with daytime activities from noon to 5 p.m. Organized in part by a curator of the Smithsonian’s annual Folklife Festival, the celebration also will celebrate several aspects of African American culture, including dance and spoken-word performances, storytelling and live muraling.

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Sharon Sanders
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