Friday – Our Week In Brooklyn Comes To An End Saturday, Jun 26 2010 


Friday Evening With Kate And Debbie In Washington Park - New Friends, Great Memories!

A subway ride from Coney Island . . . Kate generously shared a bit of her neighborhood our last evening together.  Coffee and great conversation completed the day before a short subway ride back to Brooklyn Heights and a bit of sleep.

At The "New" Coney Island


“Experiencing” the Brooklyn Bridge Friday, Jun 25 2010 

Lower Manhattan From The Brooklyn Bridge

On Wednesday I “experienced” the Brooklyn Bridge!  The Brooklyn Bridge readings we received prior to our arrival were a great primer for what we were about to experience.  Added primers were Robert and Richard, our morning speakers and Brooklyn Bridge “experts”.  Although all great primers, the true “experience” was walking the bridge!  As I strolled across the bridge with people swirling all around me and the rapid movement of traffic below, there was still an overwhelming feeling of being within myself and experiencing the spirit of the bridge one on one, a quiet experience of awe and immense appreciation.  Walking the Brooklyn Bridge is truly one of those things to do before you die . . . but not before you engage with the primers.  It just wouldn’t be the same.

Walking The Bridge

A View From Below

Closer Yet

Brooklyn Navy Yard Wednesday, Jun 23 2010 

The Navy Yard In Transition - "Paymaster of the Navy Yard" Building and New Mixed Use Building

Tuesday we visited the revitalization “in process” of the Brooklyn Navy Yard (established in 1801).  This site alone merits several days of study and exploration.  I questioned our guide about which buildings and the number of buildings built for World War II mobilization.  The worker population in the Navy Yard swelled to 70,000 people during the war.  Who built these buildings (racially/ethnically)?  My queries here relate to my research interest in World War II and the growth of St. Louis as a defense industry town, and more particularly, the role of black workers in the construction expansion necessary to meet military needs.  How does what happened in St. Louis compare to what happened in the Brooklyn Navy Yard?  I was excited to learn that the Navy Yard’s archives contain information about the construction of these buildings.  My more central question about the presence (or lack thereof) of black workers on these construction projects is yet another issue.  She and I plan to discuss my research questions in more depth at a future date.  A comparative article is taking shape in my mind!

Here is a photograph of the Brooklyn Navy Yard Hospital that was originally built in 1838 and played a very important role in the Civil War.  Note again that the Navy Yard was initially established in 1801.  This date, along with the 1838 construction date of the hospital and the sheer size of this structure, speaks to the very early importance of the U.S. Navy and the anticipated injuries/medical needs of sailors and naval officers in the earliest years of our nation’s history.  It is clear early national leaders understood the role of the Navy in securing and preserving trade and national borders.

Brooklyn Navy Yard Hospital (1838)

Soul of Brooklyn – African American History and Culture Made Visible Monday, Jun 21 2010 

Brooklyn Historical Society

Sunday evening we all gathered for the first time at the Brooklyn Historical Society located in Brooklyn Heights and housed in an architectural treasure.  Francis Morrone, one of the evening’s guest speakers, shared much about the history of Brooklyn.  I was very interested in his comments about the area’s history of slavery and particularly about the history of the Fort Greene neighborhood and its current re-birth as a center for African American culture – music, dance, film and more.  I left the gathering anxious to learn more about Fort Greene.

It turns out that this week (June 18-June 26) is Soul of Brooklyn Week, a celebration to launch the Soul of Brooklyn movement to promote the African Diaspora cultural and business renaissance taking place in Brooklyn!  We have a packed agenda for the week and there is always more to do and see.  Maybe we will be able to catch a bit of this magnificent celebration.  Here is a link to Soul of Brooklyn’s website and another link to the Fort Greene neighborhood site.  I want to also share this information taken directly from the Fort Greene site.

Nowadays the neighborhood is a significant cultural destination in New York City, housing the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) and two movie theaters. Aside from BAM, Spike Lee’s film production company 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks is located in Fort Greene, as well as The Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts.

Soul of Brooklyn’s mission is exciting!  It fits perfectly as part of the overall movement to revitalize Brooklyn!!  Take a look . . . (June 15,2010 New York Times article covering the Soul of Brooklyn launch)

So much to see, so much to do and so little time!!!!

Arriving in Brooklyn! Sunday, Jun 20 2010 

I arrived in Brooklyn Saturday evening (June 19) and what a memorable arrival it was!  As we approached the city, the flight took us up and around Manhattan to give us an absolutely stunning view of Manhattan – all the way around and into LaGuardia!!  My taxi driver from the airport to our housing site was eager to share his love and knowledge of Brooklyn with me.  Wow, what a beginning!  The opportunity to “view” Brooklyn from the street is what brought us here, and the week ahead holds great promise for adventure and amazement.

First Unitarian Church (1833) - Brooklyn

This morning I started to familiarize with my home for the next several days by walking my neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights.  I stumbled on the First Unitarian Congregational Society on Monroe Place just in time to join the congregants for their “Juneteenth” service – songs, readings, music, testimonials from Sojourner Truth, W.E.B. DuBois, Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan and more addressing concerns of workers, women, racial/ethnic minorities, and religious groups.  Where have we been, where are we today . . . the struggle for social justice continues.  As the service ended, the congregation spilled into the street to enjoy a beautiful Sunday afternoon picnic in the shade of the church building and surrounding neighorhood trees.  It was the perfect way to begin my stay and study in Brooklyn!