The Van Cortlandt House inside Van Cortlandt Park has quite a history. Even George Washington stayed there. But there is another part of its history that keeps being revealed.
The Van Cortlandt family plantation was home to enslaved Africans from the late 1600s until the early 1820s.
“This was a working plantation with enslaved people and we actually have been working the last few years to bring that history to light and to make sure people know about that important history in Van Cortlandt Park,” Christina Taylor, deputy director of the Van Cortlandt Park Alliance, said.
The park is hosting its third Juneteenth celebration, which marks the end of slavery in the United States.
Two years ago, a section of the park believed to be the final resting place for enslaved people was fenced off and renamed Enslaved African Burial Ground, next to the Kingsbridge Burial Ground.
Van Cortlandt Lake became Hester and Piero’s Mill Pond, named for the enslaved African miller who worked here in the mid-1700s.
The Juneteenth Celebration will start by the Van Cortlandt Golf House, with a procession to the graveyard and then a libation ceremony, the pouring of fresh water over the gravesite.
“My purpose for the libation is to commemorate the ancestors also to commemorate ourselves, also to uplift us, to uplift our community, to expose everyone to what’s going on,” Baba Don Babatunde, a well-known percussionist and teaching artist, said.
The event is a partnership between the alliance and the Bronx Arts Ensemble, the over 50-year-old Bronx institution that offers free and low cost public concerts and arts education in public schools.
Executive Director and noted musician Judith Insell will perform on Viola to accompany a spoken word portion of the evening.
“Celebrating the lives of black and brown people that were here and were enslaved while we were here is really important to us because it’s part of the history and culture to the people we serve,” Insell said.
That history is now being brought to the forefront on Juneteenth through music, dance and remembrance.
Find out more at https://vancortlandt.org