Thanksgiving Day is one of the three days during the year that the African Burial Ground National Monument Memorial is closed to the public. Kind of unfortunate since queuing up to give thanks and appreciation to the enslaved and free Africans of 17th and 18th century Colonial New York beats standing and watching a holiday parade long surrendered to extravagance and cartoon characters. Four hundred years ago, an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 Africans and African-Americans were buried in 6.6 acres between today’s Chambers and Reade Streets, Broadway and Centre Streets.
Rodney Leon’s African Burial Ground memorial, a tall granite mass at African Burial Ground Way and Duane St., points east to artist’s Lorenzo Pace’s memorial to the Middle Passage, a block away in Foley Square.
As we walk through the City Hall and Foley Square area, these memorials created by two Brooklyn residents remind us of the importance of holding on to ancestral memory and our own histories, traditions and values. Pace’s memorial is freestanding. The African Burial Ground National Monument memorial is opened daily 9:00am – 5:00pm – except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
On Bedford Stuyvesant
Wilhelmina Rhodes Kelly’s Bedford Stuyvesant, one of the newest additions to Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series, details through wonderful vintage images, personal interviews, and snippets of lost-history-recaptured, the evolution of this great Central Brooklyn neighborhood. A third generation Brooklynite, Kelly resided in Bedford Stuyvesant throughout her pre-teen years before moving to Crown Heights. She spent the 1960’s and 1970’s travelling often back to the neighborhood she loved to visit her paternal grandparents. It was in researching her family history that the true depth of the neighborhood was revealed, moving her to write the book. She hopes “this small text will prompt a greater appreciation of the historic (area) and perhaps provoke deeper exploration of its noteworthy past.” For us, Kelly’s work is anything but small; it is a treasure, a gift for all who have ever called Bedford-Stuyvesant home. Ms. Kelly visited libraries and historical societies, conducted interviews, collected oral histories, contacted former residents, researched a variety of local organizations and read through reams of newspapers to discover gemstones in the neighborhood’s history and culture. She touches on the architecture and on-going development of Bedford-Stuyvesant to underscore the area’s uniqueness. “So much of the early history and architecture of the original township of Bedford has vanished over the years, from its Dutch pre-Revolutionary housing and windmills, to its multitude of streams, soaring hills and spectacular views,” she says. Kelly’s book not only documents the Brooklyn of centuries ago, including events that transpired there, it also provides, in her words, “lasting acknowledgement of the multi-ethnic contributions of each succeeding generation of Bedford residents, which included American Indian, Dutch, African American, Asians and more. A Board member of the African Atlantic Genealogical Society of Freeport, LI and a member of the Weeksville Heritage Center of Brooklyn, Kelly also has written an account of her maternal family which she has researched back 12 generations.
Kelly’s Bedford Stuyvesant is a great companion piece to the now classic work by Bed-Stuy native Bruce McInnes, Glory in a Snapshot: A Photographic Look at Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Glory in our Gardens
Glorious is certainly a most fitting description of the recent brainstorming meeting of the Brooklyn Queens Land Trust hosted by Executive Director Agnes Greene at the Hattie Carthan Magnolia Tree Earth Center. Called and attended by BQLT Board Members and garden and nature lovers, the session was alive from beginning to end with idea gems for turning on young people, toddlers and teens, to nature. Our Time Press will explore some of these recommendations after the group meets again in January to finalize a proposal for educational institutions and funders.