In 2010, the remains of African slaves were discovered in the New Lots section of East New York, on Livonia Avenue between Barbey Street and Schenck Avenue. Three years later, the area has been renamed “African Burial Ground Square” and will be followed by an Afrocentric renovation of Schenck Playground, reports Jerome Bailey for Amsterdam News.
The official renaming took place on October 13 at an unveiling ceremony. In attendance were the figures and groups behind the initiative, including the leader of the initiative, Councilman Charles Barron, Man Up! Inc., ARTs East New York and the New Lots Public Library.
After a brief program, concluding with a presentation by Barron about the plight of enslaved Africans, the crowd marched from the church around Schenck playground to unveil the street signs.
The crowd grew as they marched, chanting, “Whose streets? Our streets! Teach the children! We are African people!”
They unveiled each of the street signs, which read “African Burial Ground Square” around the playground in the allotted area. According to the Gotham Gazette, at least 70 streets in New York City are named after former slave owners.
The project came about after some digging into historic documents.
On the verge of giving up on finding slave remains, the councilman’s office and Catherine Green, co-founder of the project, started opening up maps and found one from 1878 that showed an African burial ground, leading them to put their ideas into action.
“We wanted our idea to be realized today. We want to be archives for our people so that they can never be forgotten,” said Green.
Green hopes that the project will become a catalyst for people in East New York to know that they come from a place of strength and love.
“We can’t expect our community to move ahead until we know the value of our people,” said Green.
A renovation of Schenck Playground is also in the works, including new basketball nets, as well as a remodeling of its appearance to acknowledge the historical findings.
Other renovation plans include a cultural theme and a monument that tells the story of the burial site. Surrounded with new swings, Sphinx figures and other artifacts of the African diaspora, the playground will include a red, black and green Pan-African flag hanging high above the area.
“We want to make the park look like an African village,” said Green.
While the Department of Parks and Recreation has approved the renovation, it will only begin when the city funds the project, which Barron’s office is working to acquire.
Below is a video from Tyrik Washington of the unveiling ceremony and its significance.