This weekend, a new installation telling the stories of longstanding Black Bed-Stuy residents is opening in the neighborhood.
'We Are Here (Brooklyn)' is a celebration of the neighborhood's rich cultural legacy, something that has withstood gentrification, racist housing policies and systemic oppression, forces that have pushed longtime Bed-Stuy residents and business owners out of the neighborhood, as a younger, predominately white, population moves in, organizers said in a press release.
"Since the Great Migration, Black people have built a vibrant and thriving mecca in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, making it an icon of community, culture and resistance. But the neighborhood is changing," 651 Arts and Bailey's Café — who organized the project — said in the release.
The project centers images and stories of longtime Bed-Stuy residents through large-scale photographs displayed across five blocks accompanied by an audio tour of their stories. The project launches this Sunday, August 1, with a timed walking tour featuring live performances. The project will be up for 11 weeks.
Choreographer and performer Pia Monique Murray, the project's cultural producer, said it was going to be an incredible event for the community. "Seeing our longtime residents' portraits on 4-foot tall banners spread throughout the neighborhood is going to have a major impact on the community's pride in itself."
The portraits are shot by photographer Robyn Twomey, a self-described Bed-Stuy gentrifier. "I moved to Bed-Stuy in 2012 along with thousands of other gentrifiers. It became important for me to contribute and collaborate with the community and honor the rich cultural legacy and history in Bed-Stuy, so I called up my good friend and artistic collaborator Monica L. Williams," she said.
"We created 'We Are Here' to share the stories and histories of our long-time neighbors, to recognize the struggles of the past, investigate the present reality of gentrification, and praise the creators of this special section of Brooklyn."
Williams, the chief curator and director of programs at 651 Arts, conducted the interviews with the residents to share their stories, which are available via QR code. She said the project was a great example of community and collaboration. "I am delighted to share the stories of artists, community members and organizers," she said.
The project is supported by Photoville and The Laundromat Project. To learn more about Sunday's event and more, click here.