A year ago we shared with you what BRC had learned about a site in Inwood where we had been planning to build a residence to heal and help those traumatized by homelessness; that this site now occupied by an auto body shop had been a cemetery for enslaved Black people which had been subsequently destroyed, and that prior to that it had been a Lenape ceremonial site.
Learning this, BRC knew we had to pause, and reflect. We concluded then that to walk away from this history of trauma would not serve the need that existed and exists to help heal it. And so we chose to engage and include, to listen and to learn, and we asked you to help us and to guide us with your wisdom. We listened to the voices of hundreds of stakeholders: the descendant communities, the current community, historians, spiritual leaders, and other experts, the workforce and clients of BRC, and so many other wise people.
That process of inclusion and listening led to the establishment of the Advisory Group for the Inwood Sacred Site, which recognized the direct connection between the history of this site, its relationship to the persecution and dehumanization and marginalization of people and communities of color, and the root causes of homelessness today which disproportionately impact communities of color. Recognizing these connections between our city’s history of racism and the racism that still exists in our society, the Advisory Group recommended that BRC proceed with its residential program but do so in a manner that incorporates the site’s history, restores dignity to those who had been laid to rest there, and affords an opportunity and a space for reflection and education.
Now, I am pleased to share that on November 3rd, 2021, BRC took legal title to the site and is moving forward, consistent with these recommendations, creating a residence to heal and help, an interpretative center where people can come to learn, and a memorial site where people can enter and peacefully reflect. While BRC will operate the residence, we will seek out appropriate partners to design and operate the memorial and interpretative center. We expect to see all these programs open in 2024.
We would not be at this point had you not chosen to join us on this journey. We still have many more miles to go, but we have just taken a huge step forward. I am grateful for your help and wisdom that makes this journey and this milestone possible, and I look forward to continuing the journey with you.
With thanks and best wishes,
CEO & President, BRC
For updated information from BRC on the Inwood Cemetery for Enslaved People & Indigenous Ceremonial Pits, please go to www.brc.org/inwood.