This month’s Spotlight is on Morgan Powell, a writer, landscape designer, and founder of Bronx River Sankofa.
Are you originally from the Bronx? If so, which part? If not, where are you originally from and what brought you to the Bronx?
I’ve lived in the Bronx since I was 1 year old. I’ve now lived in three apartments between Gun Hill Road and Pelham Parkway since 1974.
What might Bronxites be surprised to learn about African American history in the Bronx?
Some of the less expected Black Bronx research revelations include over 50 historically important 20th century figures buried at Woodlawn Cemetery, unsigned African burial grounds within public parks, a much richer civil rights heritage than most people seem to have ever considered, numerous business people of note making their stamp on society in these parts and a vastly deeper pre-WW II community profile and journey than most had ever hear of. My favorite story is of the Jamaican-American Vietnam War Veteran who founded the orchid collection at the New York Botanical Garden and worked there for 19 years.
You chose to include the Akan word ‘Sankofa,’ which means “go back and get it,” describing the journey of drawing on the past for wisdom and strength, to describe your organization. How can Bronxites get involved in this movement?
Bronx River Sankofa is an environmental and cultural spinoff from a larger effort that will make big news this year. 2013 is the 10th anniversary of the Bronx African American History Project for which many public programs are upcoming. Also, there are great videos, transcribed interviews and more which all may search on the web wherever they geographically. I encourage all to type our project names in quotation marks into any search engine!
What are your top three favorite places in the Bronx?
It’s hard to isolate just three however I offer: a) hiking trails in Van Cortlandt Park, b) the Bronx Walk of Fame on the Grand Concourse, and c) Feeding Tree Jamaican restaurant on Gerard Avenue just a few storefronts north of 161st Street!
Are there any upcoming events or projects we should look out for?
What’s Good in My Hood? Beginning time and location: March 9, 2013 11:00 a.m. Zimmerman’s Park (Barker to Olinville Avenue off Allerton Avenue; 1 block from the Allerton Avenue train station).
This all new interactive walking tour is designed for all ages. We will explore the joy of lifelong learning by looking at neighborhood parks and landmarks. How many flowers, bushes and trees in your local parks can you name? Do you enjoy local wildlife like migrating butterflies and birds? Is there a special building near your home you’ve always wanted to know more about? Great, this tour is designed to empower you to find answers! This program is co-presented by G.I.V.E. (Getting Involved Virginia Avenue Efforts) and the Bronx River Alliance.