Nearly two years after the Flatbush African Burial Ground Coalition won the fight to prevent an apartment building from being constructed on what was once a burial site for enslaved Africans, the group is still fighting to ensure the land is preserved and honored.
Last week, FABGC released an open letter saying there is a lack of transparency regarding plans for the site at the corner of Bedford and Church avenues, which is now under the control of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.
“Next month will be one year since the announcement that the sacred land was moved to the Parks Department,” reads the letter. “Since then, we have asked for [Council Member Rita] Joseph to bring her community engagement action plan to the community. However, like her predecessor, instead of working together transparently with multiple community stakeholders, we have been faced with a stalling process.”
In the letter, FABGC also expressed concern that the outcome of the land could be decided without community input. In April, NYC Parks held a virtual town hall where community members shared ideas for the land. At the meeting, Parks insisted further community engagement would be done, but no such follow-up event has been scheduled.
Samantha Bernadine, President of FABGC, said the plan for the site has the potential to be a national example of what proper memorialization could look like.
“But the Parks Department has no plan. They've had this in their hands [and] under their leadership for over a year, and we haven't heard anything,” Bernadine said.
The open letter also alleges harassment from a nearby street vendor, who the group says has repeatedly torn down signage and commemorations put up by FABGC on the fence surrounding the land.
According to the coalition, the vendor has also threatened members of the group on numerous occasions with physical harm and claimed to be associated with African Graves Matter, another organization that fought to preserve the land.
BK Reader spoke to a spokesperson for African Graves Matter, who denied that the vendor was affiliated with the group. On Tuesday, African Graves Matter released a statement through its newsletter supporting FABGC.
“African Graves Matter stands in unity with all who support the ultimate goal of the preservation of this sacred burial ground, and urges the NYC Parks Department to move forward accordingly,” African Graves Matter's statement reads.
On Saturday, the FABGC held a special “Day of Remembrance” event, where the group replaced the fence weaving surrounding the land and other signs that have been torn down. Joseph attended the event, where she fielded concerns from FABGC and local residents.
“Today marks our time to come back and to rebuild, regroup," said Bernadine during the event. "To remind folks that one person or one individual, one group of individuals, cannot stop us from our mission.”
Joseph told BK Reader at the event she is committed to hearing community concerns about the outcome of the land.
"They’re waiting for me to say when to move," Joseph said of NYC Parks. According to Joseph, the city has allotted $4 million for the project.
On Friday, Sept. 22 at 6:00pm, Lefferts Historic House, Joseph and the Prospect Park Alliance will hold an “African Burial Ground Fireside Chat,” where residents will learn about other African burial grounds and explore ideas for the Flatbush African Burial Ground.
NYC Parks has not responded to a request for comment by publishing time.