Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations (CBBG) is BHS’s oral history project and public programming series examining the history and experiences of mixed-heritage people and families, cultural hybridity, race, ethnicity, and identity.
Did you know that “if marriages in Brooklyn were completely random with respect to race, we might expect about 70% of all Brooklyn marriages to be interracial, instead of the 6% that actually are interracial today”?
There’s a lot of content that is still to come, more digital exhibits, more discussions, and eventually more tools for teachers.
We would love to hear your feedback as the site develops. Email comments to oralhistory(at)brooklynhistory.org
Elsie Richardson (1922-2012) was a Brooklyn leader, community organizer, and activist who lived in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. She was co-founder of the Central Brooklyn Coordinating Council and was essential in the creation of the first nonprofit community development corporation in the country, Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration, which became a national model. You can learn more about the history and present of Restoration from this video.
Brooklyn Historical Society interviewed Elsie Richardson for the oral history archives in 2008 in collaboration with Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration, which was celebrating its 40th anniversary that year. Elsie Richardson was 86 years old when the resulting exhibition, Reflections on Community Development, opened at BHS and the Skylight Gallery at Restoration, and it was an honor to have her at the opening. Audio montages from that exhibition are available here and also on iTunes (search the iTunes Store for “Brooklyn Historical” and you can subscribe for free to the BHS podcast).
Here’s Elsie Richardson describing the founding of the Central Brooklyn Coordinating Council and describing her leadership strategy to always end meetings talking about solutions:
In 1966, Senator Robert F. Kennedy (D-NY) took a walking tour of Bedford-Stuyvesant as part of his efforts to evaluate the effectiveness of President Johnson’s War on Poverty. Here is Elsie Richardson remembering how she famously told Senator Kennedy that the issues had been “studied to death and what we need is bricks and mortar”:
Two weeks after Senator Kennedy’s meetings in Bedford-Stuyvesant, the work to establish Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration began to take root:
The next two audio clips are from an archival recording from 1967 of a meeting in Bedford Stuyvesant announcing the plans for Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration. Thank you to Ron Shiffman for donating this recording to the BHS’s collections.
In this clip, we hear Elsie Richardson and the audience’s reaction to the New York World Journal Tribune’s reporting on the community organizing happening in Bedford-Stuyvesant, which the newspaper describes as “Brooklyn’s teeming ghetto.” This audience of engaged and organized community members takes particular issue with the newspaper’s description of Bedford-Stuyvesant’s “downtrodden people.”
Here is the beginning of Senator Kennedy’s speech that same day – including a little joke about “downtrodden people.”
Finally, here is Elsie Richardson remembering how The New York Times reported on her community organizing work in 1968, describing her and other leaders as “middle-aged matriarchs.”
Elsie Richardson was an inspiring leader whose work lives on in Brooklyn and beyond.
The word “hapa” comes from Hawaii, a historical hot spot for interracial marriage, and the birthplace of the first multiethnic US President. It most commonly refers to people whose multiethnic heritage includes Asian ancestry. The hapa identity is an especially vibrant part of a growing movement towards multiethnic identity and community.
Being hapa wasn’t always a good thing. Interracial marriage was illegal in many states for most of US history, including marriage between whites and Asians. This made hapa children illegitimate in many places. Punishments for the parents of hapas could be anything from denial of a legal marriage to jail time and fines. These laws (and the social attitudes that formed them) made it clear that hapas should not expect a warm welcome into the world. Interracial marriage bans were not lifted until 1967 through a landmark Supreme Court decision aptly named Loving v. Virginia (now celebrated as Loving Day).
Celebrating Loving Day in New York, photo by Michael Kirby
In 2011, hapas are everywhere from census forms to celebrity A-lists. The hapa identity is growing fast in academia, the community, and the arts. UC Berkeley hosted the first Hapa Japan Conference this year with a focus on Japanese hapa identity. At Harvard, the third annual SWAYA (So… What Are You Anyway?) conference on mixed-race issues was hosted by Harvard Hapa, one of many active hapa student groups nationwide. A great documentary film entitled One Big Hapa Family was shown on PBS and has been traveling the festival circuit, including the first annual Hapa-Palooza festival in Vancouver.
Part Asian, 100% Hapa by Kip Fulbeck
Kip Fulbeck is arguably the most visible artist in the hapa community. He’s especially well known for The Hapa Project, which includes the book Part Asian, 100% Hapa, a traveling photo exhibition, presentations, and online communities. Fulbeck’s work has inspired many other artists to explore the hapa identity through photography and other media. This visibility has an important effect: for many, Fulbeck’s work is their introduction to the hapa identity and the first step on a path to exploring multiethnic identity.
The Hapa Project Thursday, December 8, 2011 at 6:30pm
RSVP Required: email@example.com
Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA)
215 Centre Street, Manhattan Directions to MOCA
Celebrate Shirley Chisholm Day 11/30/11 by checking out The Shirley Chisholm Project’sonline collection of oral history interviews with people who knew her well, including Richard Green, founder of the Crown Heights Youth Collective, who worked on Chisholm’s campaign; and feminist and journalist Gloria Steinem, who ran as a Chisholm delegate to the 1972 democratic convention.
January 25, 2012 will mark the 40th anniversary of Shirley Chisholm’s historic run for president, and launch a year-long, borough-wide celebration of this important Brooklynite - stay tuned!
Intrepid political leader, Shirley Chisholm was born in Brooklyn on November 30, 1924. When she was three years old, she went to live in Barbados with her maternal grandmother, returning to Brooklyn about seven years later. She graduated from Girls High School, followed by Brooklyn College, and then she earned a Master’s in Eduction from Columbia University. In 1968, Chisholm became the first black woman elected to Congress, and she was one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus. In 1972, Chisholm ran an inspiring campaign to be the Democratic presidential nominee – the race was ultimately Nixon v. McGovern (see campaign commercials here).