Across from the Kingsborough housing development, the three houses are all that remain of what Green describes as an “intentional community” of free African-Americans called Weeksville. Established in the second decade after New York’s Emancipation, its settlers sought more than refuge from bondage at what was then the edge of Brooklyn.
Together they pursued more substantive freedoms through financial independence, community, homeownership and, tied to that, voting rights.
Lost in the jumble of bricks that Brooklyn became, a historian and amateur pilot spotted the dilapidated cottages in 1968, askew from the street grid and in the footprint of urban renewal plans.
That year began the decades-long struggle to preserve the site, and also, Ms. Green’s impressive, kaleidoscopic professional life. After receiving her B.A. in mathematics, she embarked on a career trail that took her from IBM to the University of Chicago to New York City government, all the way to South Africa where she oversaw outreach for Big Bird and company.
Laid off by Sesame Street in 2001, she looked close to home in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where she’s laid her head for 30 years now, and found her calling.
“I thought that this was an institution that needed to be preserved. And it needed care, it needed visibility,” Green said. “And it had, and it still has, tremendous potential to not only teach people about a little-known aspect of African American history, but also, use that history, making it relevant to the 21st century.”
Despite the “very difficult” funding climate, the project has come alive under Green’s versatile management. Since the completion of the houses’ restoration in 2005, focus has turned to the land where kitchen gardens replicate those of historic Weeksville, and produce food for weekly farmers’ markets hosted there (June-October).
This summer look for their annual concert series, and the opening of their new cultural center in August.