This piece is part of our 21 Local Innovators To Watch roundup in the August 2022 print issue of District Fray. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Lead telecommunications specialist at the National Gallery of Art; stand-up comedian + voiceover artist.
District Fray: Why you do what you do
Haywood Turnipseed Jr.: In my current position, I get to work with executive officers, department heads, contractors, the work force within the departments and visitors. My team maintains all The National Gallery’s telecommunications services; we evaluate the needs of users and provide the best solutions based on the current telecommunications’ standards. This includes wired; wireless; and radio networks. The backdrop of the National Gallery of Art makes for some unique pairings. In addition to being a telecom specialist, I’m a stand-up comic and I have been able to use those skills as well as my skills as a voiceover artist. I’ve portrayed Santa Claus, hosted art and comedy’ forums with members of the education department for staff members and their families as well as the public; I’ve even recorded the most recent announcements for the Jazz in The Garden concert series. I’m fortunate that my various worlds all have converged in this one space, it’s really invigorating.
How you are helping
In addition to my duties as a telecom specialist, I work as an EEO counselor and am the current vice president for my local union, AFGE Local 1831. This has allowed me to share more than just my expertise as a technician but also my thoughts about the workspace with policy makers and the labor force, hopefully working towards a better working environment for many, and in time, all of us. As a comedian, my style is often called political because I talk about the topics that are essentially taboo: race, religion, and politics. It’s fun to talk about our individual differences and connect them to our collective humanity. I aim to leave audiences happy and with a little something to think about afterwards, whether they agree with me, or not. Part of our job as comedians is to stir the pot, but to do so with levity, grace, and empathy.
Who else is helping
My management team; work team members; union board members; EEO team members and co-workers who are actively seeking real change and hoping to improve overall work conditions within the organization. All the additional duties are volunteer positions, so the people who take part are truly being the change that they would like to see.
Where you escape in D.C.
I really enjoy exploring D.C. parks and trails. I’ve been walking for exercise lately and D.C. has many trails to explore and escape the noise of the city; It’s really calming. I mostly walk the Oxon Run Trail in Oxon Run Park near my house, but I also walk the Anacostia Trail over near RFK stadium onto Kingman Island.
Where you go to escape D.C.
Most recently Atlanta. Recently we did a stay in southeast Atlanta in an area known as Peoplestown. It’s an area that is also going through gentrification and imminent domain issues not unlike Southeast D.C. That was kinda surreal. I did come across a walking path called the BeltLine. It was serene and felt like home.
Book: “The 1619 Project” by Nikole Hanna Jones. Album/Music/Streams: D-Nice Club Quarantine playlist on Tidal is a good listen; “The Harder They Fall” is a great soundtrack. My phone says that I’ve been listening to The Weeknd, Bob Marley & and the Wailers, Justin Bieber, Prince, Tems, Nas, Wizkid, Wu-Tang, Black Thought, and the “Encanto” soundtrack. Point being, my kids have added to my algorithms, but we don’t talk about that.
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