Remembering Bed-Stuy in Stories

Herbert Sweat receiving his citation at St. Philip’s Church (Photo by Cyrille Phipps via Our Time Press)

The event hall of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, in the heart of the Stuyvesant Heights Historic District, was the site of a gathering recently at which numerous neighborhood luminaries were honored for their participation in the Stuyvesant Heights Oral History Project, writes Cyrille Phipps, filmmaker and media educator in Our Time Press.

It’s a challenging time for many lifelong residents, as Phipps notes. Bedford Stuyvesant, once notorious for its crime rate, is being gentrified, and the rising rents, rising home prices and other economic changes in the neighborhood were documented by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli in a recently released study also reported on by Our Time Press.

The oral history project allows longtime residents, including those whose families have lived in the neighborhood for generations, to reflect on the rich cultural history of Bed-Stuy. As “one of the oldest and most prominent African-American communities in NYC,” the stories of its residents are a rich trove:

…it is stories of families living and growing old in the same household for two or even three generations, or the stories of small businesses and neighborhood churches becoming local institutions. It’s the home of world-known artists, musicians and politicians who made a mark in the streets, halls and playgrounds of this diverse community.

Among those contributing their recollections were Herbert Sweat, a veteran, community activist and lifelong resident who shared stories about his childhood, and Geraldine Jordan who was born and raised in Brooklyn, spent the majority of her life in Bed-Stuy and was married at St. Philip’s Church, of which she has been a member since 1932.

Learn about others whose stories are in the oral history project, including a mother and son who offered homestyle cooking at their local restaurant, at Our Time Press.

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