The Brooklyn chapter of the United Order of Tents continues to fight to save their headwaters located in Bedford-Stuyvesant, reports Ebony. The legacy of this secret society of Black women goes back to the Unground Railroad and for the last ten years they have been at the center of a tumultuous property battle.
Now with the possibility of a tax lien being levied on the organization, the group might lose their home. The building's current property tax bill is well over $400,000 and is in dire need of restoration.
The group's origins date back to 1848 by two formerly enslaved women, Annetta M. Lane and Harriett R. Taylor, with a long-held mission “ to care for the aged, respectfully bury the dead and promote sisterhood.” Membership once spanned throughout the American south but today, the Brooklyn group is the last remaining club in what was once the club's Eastern District.
“That building is a symbol of a legacy,” said Akosua Levine, 71, a longtime member of the Tents. “Women that were enslaved, freed slaves—they did with nothing. So in the 21st century, we have no excuse for that building, for that legacy, not to continue. We have to value our culture.”
Purchased in 1945, the mansion continues to be protected by the Stuyvesant Heights Historic District, meaning that it will not be demolished over the tax dispute. However, the Tent's exemption from local property taxes was denied by the Department of Finance when the building was not being used during the pandemic.
The city believed that the mansion was vacant and would not have any use for tax-exemption in the foreseeable future. So now, if the Tents are going to continue to occupy the building, they must fund the the building's upkeep themselves.
"Brooklyn has many street signs and neighborhoods that are holding up the names of Dutch and English enslavers,” Levine continued. “Yet we cannot keep Black spaces intact. That is big for me. We need to remember some of those spaces.”
To contribute to the United Order of the Tents fundraiser please click here.