New York, NY – City Council Speaker Corey Johnson
joined fellow Council Members today at City Hall to call on Mayor de Blasio to
designate the Weeksville Heritage Center – a Brooklyn landmark and museum that
celebrates the history of one of America’s first communities for free blacks –
as part of a group of institutions protected by the city’s Department of Cultural
Affairs. By adding this Crown Heights jewel to the city’s Cultural Institutions
Group, Weeksville will get regular funding and maintenance.
The Weeksville Heritage Center was home to hundreds of
free African Americans before the Civil War. They settled after New York
abolished slavery. This center, which oversees a 23,000-square-foot visitor
facility and maintains the historic Hunterfly Road Houses, is in danger of
closing without proper funding.
“The Weeksville Heritage Center is a New York treasure that honors African American history. It is a powerful reminder of a time when New
York City was a safe haven for those who escaped slavery and were eager to
start a free life. We are so fortunate that this site was not only preserved,
but developed into a facility for everyone to learn more about the early
communities owned by freed blacks. This Crown Heights jewel should not have to
crowdfund to stay afloat. The mayor needs to add it to the umbrella of
organizations directly supported by the Department of Cultural Affairs so
Weeksville Heritage Center is guaranteed funding and maintenance annually,”
said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.
“This rally is not about what the City HASN’T
done for Weeksville. In fact, we’re grateful for all the funding, expertise
and other resources we’ve received from the city over the years, in
particularly the Department of Cultural Affairs. And I especially want to
shout out Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl for his continued leadership and
support. No, this event is about putting in place a key element that will
help ensure Weeksville’s long-term sustainability. We believe that our
inclusion in the CIG would say to the world that the City sees Weeksville as a
crucial part of NYC and American history, that it is a vital member of the
city’s cultural landscape, and it is worth preserving and protecting.
That’s why we want to take our relationship to the next level and become a
permanent line item in the budget of the City of New York,” said Rob Fields,
president & executive director of Weeksville Heritage Center.
“Weeksville is sacred African American ground. For
generations it served as a beacon of hope for those seeking refuge from the
vestiges of slavery. Supporting Weeksville as a Cultural Institutions Group
(CIG) is a recognition of African American longevity and a commitment from the
city writ large,” said Majority Leader Laurie A. Cumbo.
“The Weeksville Heritage Center is an important
landmark for African American history in our city and our country. Weeksville,
Brooklyn was one of America’s largest free black communities prior to the Civil
War and the abolition of slavery. It would be a travesty if this black cultural
institution was forced to close. I strongly support designating Weeksville
Heritage Center as a Cultural Institutions Group to ensure its rich history and
culture are forever preserved,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, Chair
of the Cultural Affairs and Libraries Committee.
“Few institutions have been as impactful in preserving
and promoting the art, culture, and history of black culture in our country as
the Weeksville Heritage Center. Understanding the center’s importance to our
city, my colleagues and I felt it was necessary to call on the City to
prioritize the preservation of this center with the resources befitting its
contributions to our city’s identity,” said Council Member Robert E.
About Weeksville Heritage
Weeksville Heritage Center is a
multidisciplinary museum dedicated to preserving the history of the 19th
century African American community of Weeksville, Brooklyn – one of America’s
many free black communities.
Our mission is to document, preserve and
interpret the history of free African American communities in Weeksville,
Brooklyn and beyond and to create and inspire innovative, contemporary uses of
African American history through education, the arts, and civic engagement.
Using a contemporary lens, we activate this unique history through the
presentation of innovative, vanguard and experimental programs.