Weeksville Juneteenth Mapping with BlackSpace
BlackSpace, in partnership with the Weeksville Heritage Center, commissioned my participatory mapping work for their 2-Day Juneteenth Festival. I developed a unique map of Weeksville, Brooklyn to showcase food-based gathering places in the historic Black neighborhood. In this memory mapping activity, BlackSpace sought to develop a crowdsourced neighborhood map of food and memory.
As with most of my work, community input was the key to new knowledge production. So, we created a space where community members could reflect on the connections between food, place, and Black identities throughout the diaspora. These individual experiences (hand-written on colored wooden blocks and placed on the map) imbued the map with a layer of information that cannot be found in government-compiled GIS databases.
The real-time community input also revealed the cultural erasure that Weeksville has faced in the wake of its removal from the city’s political maps. BlackSpace’s team of volunteer facilitators quickly discovered how sparse black-owned or -loved businesses and gathering spaces are within Weeksville. The team asked each participant: 1) Where is a space that feels like home? 2) Where do you get your favorite meal? 3) Where do you regularly shop for groceries? Black-Owned? Many of those community hubs, we learned, are now concentrated along Weeksville!&s periphery.
Discoveries like these make Brooklyn-based participatory mapping work bitter-sweet for me. These public-art/urban-planning installations tell stories of loss… while maintaining place-based memories and revealing the resilience of Black joy in a city that historically refused to invest in us. In fact, many of those spaces of joy identified by participants have shifted away from Weeksville’s center and towards Brownsville (where I would visit my grandparents), Bed-Stuy (where my father grew up), and Crown Heights (where I currently live). And today, these narratives of disinvestment are slowly transforming into stories of intentional support by institutions like the Brooklyn Museum next door.
BlackSpace Urbanist Collective
Weeksville, Brooklyn (NYC)