Initial Restoration and Bearing Witness Ceremony Held at Sacred Inwood Site
May 2, 2021
This Initial Restoration and Bearing Witness Ceremony for the Inwood Sacred Ground was held at the site on 3966 10th Ave on Sunday, May 2nd, to bring together various officiants and spiritual leaders representing the ancestry of enslaved Africans who were buried there, and the Lenape people who held this land sacred, as well as representatives from the present-day community of Inwood. The ceremony was meant to hold a moment of meaningful reflection ahead of the anticipated archeological investigations of the site scheduled to begin on May 3rd.
The event was coordinated by BRC and hosted by The Advisory Group for the Inwood Sacred Site (AGISS).
The Participants in this ceremony included:
La-Verna Fountain, Founder of Meaningful Communications Matter, LLC
Muzzy Rosenblatt; CEO and President, BRC
Rabbi Guy Austrian; Fort Tryon Jewish Center
Tiffany Lee, Executive Director, Social Justice Minister; Altagracia Faith and Justice Works/Obras de Fe y Justicia de la Altagracia; Catholic Churches of The Good Shepherd and St. Jude
Hadrien Coumans, Co-Founder & Co-Director of Lenape Center; Adopted member of the White-Turkey Fugate family of the Lenape
Chief Ayanda Ifadara Clarke, Ajibilu Awo of Osogbo; Founder and CEO, The Fadara Group, LLC
Nana K. Osei Ababio, Adade Kofi Okomfo
Numo Kwesi Nkroma
After Laverna’s opening comments, Muzzy Rosenblatt spoke of BRC’s commitment to exploring how the site can be developed in a way that both restores dignity and honor and promotes the history and people who once used this land as a sacred space, and enable BRC to continue to serve justice as we meet the needs of the people we serve, many of whom are the victims of a generations-long system of racism and colonization.
Rabbi Guy Austrian and Tiffany Lee spoke and offered prayers, bearing witness representing Inwood’s’ Jewish and Christian/Catholic Communities.
As part of the Restoration portion of the ceremony, representatives from the Indigenous and African communities addressed those present and spoke to the sacredness of the land and the history of the site.
Hadrien Coumans spoke of the Lenape people’s connection to the area, and how that connection remains still. He also offered a song of prayer in the Lenape tradition.
Chief Ayanda, Nana Osei, and Numo Kwesi, offered prayers and the pouring of libations to uplift and honor the ancestors who were laid to rest in that space, along with messages of support and guidance to those gathered on respecting the space and how it connects to the people both past and present, as the upcoming investigation is done, and extending forward, should there be a next stage of development. The Languages spoken and rituals conducted represented the Nigerian, Ghanaian, and Central African traditions.
Chief Ayanda closed the ceremony with intentions for success in the spirit of goodwill, love, light, and balance.
This was a small, private event due to COVID concerns, individuals in attendance who observed and bore witness to the ceremony included AGISS members Carol Stevens of the Church of the Good Shepherd Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Ministry; Gene Peters, Board member of the Stromberg Museum; Elizabeth Ritter of Community Board 12; also attending were Archeologists Elizabeth Meade and Rachel Watkins; Peggy King Jorde of King Jorde Cultural Projects Consulting; and Sarah Townley, member of Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation Ministry of The Church of the Good Shepherd. Representatives of Traditional African Spiritual practices were in attendance including members of Ile Oturupon Sokun Ifa Temple, and Okomfohene Nana Kodia and Banafo Bosumfie.
We want to thank everyone who attended including all community members, BRC Staff, and guests from the local Inwood and great NYC metro area community. Other ceremonies will be organized as needed, and at key milestones of the project.
Membership of the Advisory Group for the Inwood Sacred Site (AGISS)
May 1, 2021
The AGISS was formed to provide recommendations to BRC regarding how best to develop the site in a way that appropriately honors the African and Indigenous peoples who once lived and honored the land. AGISS is comprised of descendants of African and Indigenous peoples, Inwood’s community residents and leaders, historians, advocates, and BRC staff.
Membership of the AGISS Includes:
Meredith Horsford (Chair) - Executive Director, Dyckman Farmhouse Museum
Chief Ayanda Ifadara Clarke - Ajibilu Awo of Osogbo, Founder and CEO, THE FADARA GROUP, LLC
Carol Stevens - Church of the Good Shepherd Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Ministry
Curtis Zunigha - Cultural Resources Director, Delaware Tribe of Indians
Don Rice - Inwood historian
Gene Peters - Board Trustee, The Schomburg Corporation
John T. Reddick - Historian & planner
Karen Taylor - Executive Director, While We Are Still Here
Elizabeth Lorris Ritter - Chair, CB12 Parks & Cultural Affairs Committee
Maria Lizardo - Executive Director, NMIC (Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation)
Natalie Espino - Cultural Affairs Specialist, Manhattan Borough President's Office
Nicole Clare - Chief Real Estate Development Officer, BRC
Sandra Harris - President, Washington Heights & Inwood Chamber of Commerce
Yvonne Wakim Dennis - Author, Education Advisor to Children's Cultural Center of Native America
Invitation to 1st Public Advisory Group for the Inwood Sacred Site (AGISS) Meeting
April 15, 2021
On Tuesday, April 20th at 10AM ET, the Advisory Group for the Inwood Sacred Site (AGISS) invites you to observe via zoom the first public meeting centering around the anticipated archeological investigations of the site at 3966 Tenth Avenue.
As you may know, BRC paused their plan to purchase the site and launched a series of listening sessions which included descendants, interested members of the public and key stakeholders who shared their personal experiences, reflections, ideas, concerns, and enthusiastic offerings of support. In listening to the community, BRC now believes there is a unique opportunity to both move forward with the building of a shelter in keeping with the city’s needs and BRC’s mission, and also reclaim the site’s significance, respect and dignity for Indigenous and African people and their descendants.
The AGISS was formed to provide recommendations to BRC regarding how best to develop the site in a way that appropriately honors the African and Indigenous peoples who once lived and honored the land. AGISS is comprised of descendants of African and Indigenous peoples, Inwood’s community residents and leaders, historians, advocates, and BRC staff, and is chaired by Meredith Horsford, Executive Director of the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum.
The members of the AGISS and BRC hope you will join in our restorative justice efforts.
--The Advisory Group for the Inwood Sacred Site
Learning about the history of the site, holding community conversations, and forming the Advisory Group for the Inwood Sacred Site (AGISS)
March 22nd, 2021
BRC is one of our city’s most effective providers of housing and services to vulnerable New Yorkers experiencing homelessness. For the last couple of years, we have been moving forward with plans to purchase a site at 3966 Tenth Avenue, currently a site of an auto repair shop, to build and then operate a high-quality shelter for people experiencing homelessness. Very recently, we became aware of the site’s history as a cemetery for enslaved people that also adjoined a ceremonial site used by the Lenape people. In 1903, as the neighborhood was being developed, the burial ground was destroyed and the remains of those who had been buried there were dishonored and discarded, and there is currently no recognition of any of the site’s history at the site or acknowledgment of those who were previously buried there (you can find links to detailed historical information at the end of this letter).
Below is a video overview of this history, as produced by Cole Thompson, local Inwood Historian:
Learning the history of this site, BRC stopped development activity to reflect and assess how to proceed. A horrible injustice happened there, and we want to see justice served; we recognize from our own work that the traumas of homelessness and impoverishment are intertwined with the ongoing effects of centuries of racist oppression and erasure of BIPOC communities.
We started our assessment – and will continue – by listening: seeking the wisdom and input of various stakeholders. This includes the descendants of enslaved and indigenous peoples, Inwood’s community residents and leaders, as well as historians, advocates, and BRC staff and clients. We convened a series of facilitated listening sessions including staff town halls held in December, and 3 community conversations in January and February co-sponsored by the Office of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum.
We have also created the Advisory Group for the Inwood Sacred Site (AGISS).
The AGISS was formed to provide recommendations to BRC regarding how best to develop the site in a way that appropriately honors the African and Indigenous peoples who once lived and honored the land. AGISS is comprised of descendants of African and Indigenous peoples, Inwood’s community residents and leaders, historians, advocates, BRC staff and clients and is chaired by Meredith Horsford, Executive Director of the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum.
To assist us in this process, BRC has engaged Peggy King-Jorde , an expert who was the driving force behind the establishment of the African Burial Ground National Monument that exists today in lower Manhattan. We are also working with La-Verna Fountain, Founder of Meaningful Communications Matter, LLC, a professional facilitator experienced in leading Sacred Listening Sessions.