NYC Parks Commemorates Black History Month with the Exhibition, ‘Namesakes’ at Arsenal Gallery



Marcus Garvey Park, formerly Mt. Morris Park. Image taken April, 2009. Image courtesy NYC Parks

In anticipation and celebration of Black History Month in February, NYC Parks is pleased to announce the exhibition “Namesakes: Honoring African Americans in NYC Parks” at the Arsenal Gallery in Central Park. The show focuses on a selection of parks throughout the city that are named after notable African Americans.

Marcus Garvey Park, May 2019. Image courtesy NYC Parks

The images above are before and after pictures of the basketball court on the Madison Avenue side of Marcus Garvey Park in East Harlem, with mural work created by Creative Courts and the artist, Saya Woolfalk.

“This year’s Black History Month exhibition is a moving display of notable African Americans commemorated through our green spaces and monuments,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP.  “With archival and current photographs of more than a dozen namesakes, the show illustrates how African American history has shaped our city’s culture and park system. We are proud to partner with the Ebony Society on this annual tradition, and we encourage New Yorkers to visit the Arsenal Gallery to see this meaningful show.”

Many of New York City’s parks and monuments honor African Americans who have shaped the landscape of our culture. Monuments and parks of all sizes pay tribute to the contributions and lives of notable African Americans from the 18th century to the 21st century. In “Namesakes: Honoring African Americans in NYC Parks,” historical images from the NYC Parks Photo Archive are displayed alongside contemporary photographs that display the vibrancy of these parks today. Accompanying texts share biographical details about the namesake individuals as well as information about the parks’ histories.

White Park & Playground,, c. 1938.East Harlem. Image courtesy NYC Parks

White Park & Playground in East Harlem, image above, was renovated in 2015 to include all new playground equipment, checker & chess tables, and a new handball court and basketball court that received its own mural in 2017.

Parks highlighted in this exhibition include Betty Carter Park (Brooklyn), Captain Roscoe Brown Ph.D. Plaza (Bronx), Courtney Callender Playground (Manhattan), Crispus Attucks Playground (Brooklyn), Dr. Ronald McNair Park (Brooklyn) and Dr. Ronald E. McNair Playground (Manhattan), Greg Marius Court and Holcombe Rucker Park (Manhattan), Hattie Carthan Community Garden (Brooklyn), Jackie Robinson Park and Pool (Manhattan), Jackie Robinson Parkway (Brooklyn/Queens), and Jackie Robinson Playground (Brooklyn), James Weldon Johnson Playground (Manhattan), Lewis H. Latimer House Museum (Queens), Marcus Garvey Park (Manhattan), Pelham Fritz Recreation Center (Manhattan), Ralph Bunche Park (Manhattan), Shirley Chisholm Circle in Brower Park (Brooklyn), and White Park (Manhattan).

Hattie Carthan Garden. Image courtesy NYC Parks

The NYC Parks Ebony Society was founded in 1985 with the purpose of unifying NYC Parks’ African American community, increasing African American visibility, and recognizing those who make outstanding contributions not only to NYC Parks, but also their communities. Soon thereafter, the Ebony Society was chartered as a non-profit. The Society derives its name from the Ebony tree, indigenous to Africa and known for its strength. Since 1985, it has become an integral part of the NYC Parks community and has helped organize the annual exhibition honoring Black History Month in the Arsenal Gallery since 1991.

Namesakes will be on view at Arsenal Gallery, Central Park from January 16 through February 27, 2020. Arsenal Gallery is located 830 Fifth Avenue at 64th Street, in Central Park, NYC.

This exhibition is presented by NYC Parks’ Ebony Society and Art & Antiquities, and will be on view through February 27.

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