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.