Whether you’ve lived in Brooklyn your whole life or are a transplant, we all have an obligation to learn about our borough’s Black history.
Brooklyn on its own would be the largest Black city in America — over 800,000 African Americans live in the borough, the last Census estimated. Central Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bed-Stuy, Crown Heights, PLG, Flatbush, East Flatbush have long been home to Black culture and community. The last few years saw the designation of parts of the area as Little Carribean and Little Haiti, highlighting the contributions made by the communities.
Black Americans became a majority in Bed-Stuy in the 1930s, and in Crown Heights, free black Americans founded Weeksville just 11 years after slavery was outlawed in New York state in 1827. That neighborhood eventually became modern-day Crown Heights, but the history is preserved through the efforts of Weeksville Heritage Center, a must-visit for any Brooklynite.
During the civil rights era, Brooklyn’s chapter of CORE (a national, African American civil rights organization called the Congress of Racial Equality) organized a literal march from Brooklyn to Washington, D.C. to attend the March on Washington. These days we have neighbors speaking up on school desegregation, police brutality and gun violence, while celebrating its entrepreneurs, artists, and politicians — a monument for Shirley Chisholm is in the works for the Flatbush Entrance to the Prospect Park.
Here you can find a few events and causes to support this month, there is so much happening in the Borough.
Weeksville, now located in Crown Heights, was one of the first free black communities in the U.S., founded before slavery was outlawed nationally. The Heritage Center, at 158 Buffalo Avenue, preserves buildings from that time, and houses a museum with rotating exhibits about African-American history and culture. The newest exhibit is artist Damien Davis’s ‘COLLAPSE: Black Wall Street Study’ about currency and the black body. They’re typically open Tuesdays through Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., but will be open additional hours from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturdays during Black History Month.
This month the Brooklyn Historical Society will host two events in honor of Black History Month.
First up on February 18 is a screening and discussion of “Always in Season,” a film about Claudia Lacy’s fight to find out the circumstances of her son Lennon Lacy, an African American teenager who was found hanging from a swing set in Birmingham, Alabama in 2014. The film explores how racism still exists violently today in modern America.
On February 19, they will host their annual Martha Rubin conversation on racial equity. Renowned investigative journalist Jerry Mitchell will discuss his new book Race Against Time: A Reporter Reopens the Unsolved Murder Cases of the Civil Rights Era.
A building at 227 Duffield Street in Downtown Brooklyn is believed to have been part of the underground railroad, according to activists who have been fighting to landmark the building. Here’s our reporting on the fight.
An owner who acquired the building after 2014, Samiel Hanasab, has applied for a demolition permit, and after the city ruled in 2007 that there is no connection between the building and the underground railroad, it’s in real danger of being demolished, as it now stands on prime real estate next to City Point, a large, mixed-use development.
It’s one of the last buildings left on a block that was once known as “Abolitionist Place” because several anti-slavery activists lived there in the 1800s. Local activists are now raising funds in an attempt to buy back building and save it from demolition.
BRIC, an arts and culture organization based in downtown Brooklyn, is hosting a series of events for Black History Month, including a live podcast taping of SONIC BLACKNUSS, a podcast about black music and memory, on February 13.
Anyone can be part of the audience, and the podcast will be hosted by Nia I’man Smith (a.k.a THE BLACK CONNECTION), with guests Angela Yvonne (Co-Host/Producer of the podcast, Underqualified and Over Opinionated, and PJ Ryan (Host/Producer of the podcast Highly Melanated).
The cultural and arts center is hosting many other events in the coming weeks to celebrate Black History Month, so be sure to check their calendar for full event listings.
The Center for Fiction, located at 15 Lafayette Avenue in Fort Greene, works to promote literature. On February 18, her birthday, they will screen Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, a film about the life of the famous American author and chronicler of Black life who passed away last summer. Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, the director of the film, will lead a discussion immediately after.
The Brooklyn Public Library is hosting a variety of events in honor of Black History Month at its various branches. On February 11 at the Brownsville Library, there will be a workshop for kids to make collages based on the Green Book, a travel guide for African Americans during the Jim Crow Era.
Check their calendar for a full list of events at your local branch.
Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez is hosting a Q&A with Sunny Hostin, a lawyer, former prosecutor and host of The View, on February 10th at the Brooklyn Law School. “She’ll be discussing her legal career as a federal prosecutor, her transition to television and her views on diversity, among other topics,” said a spokesperson for the Brooklyn DA’s office.The Law School is located at 205 State Street, and the event will take place from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Feill Hall on the 22nd Floor. Doors open at 6:00 p.m.
We also published a list of Black-owned food businesses to visit in Brooklyn this month and every month: Check it out here.