Mapping Memory: Black Food, Joy, & Place


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

Project Duration:

June 2022


Weeksville, Brooklyn (NYC)

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