Nov. 10: More than a Riot: Listening to the Unheard Voices of Crown Heights

  • 509 Knox Hall 606 West 122nd Street New York, NY, 10027 United States
© Alicia Atterberry, 2015

© Alicia Atterberry, 2015

WHEN: Thursday, November 10, 2016, 6 - 8 PM

WHERE: Knox Hall, 606 W. 122nd Street, Room 509

Sparked by the accidental death of a young Afro-Caribbean boy, Gavin Cato, and resulting in the death of Jewish student, Yankel Rosenbaum, the 1991 Crown Heights riot came to define the Brooklyn neighborhood as a place fraught with ethnic tension and violence.

Since the 1990s, the national media have pointed to Crown Heights as a cautionary tale of strained police-community relations and fiery racial-ethnic tensions. By contrast, the riot has also been deployed as the origin story in a triumphant narrative of the neighborhood’s development, promulgated by city planners and real estate developers. These approaches to Crown Heights flatten the complex history of the neighborhood into one moment, and inadequately draw from that reductive history to explain contemporary events. And they do so, in part, by ignoring the lived histories of residents themselves.

Twenty-five years after the riot, Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS) has launched Voices of Crown Heights, in an effort to listen beyond the din of riot-based histories for the unheard voices and overlooked narratives in BHS’s existing oral history collections, and through new oral histories of previously overlooked people and communities in Crown Heights. Using BHS’s Voices of Crown Heights as an example, this presentation will explore what it means to be a listening institution that collects, preserves, curates, and presents oral histories; and how programming that cultivates public listening to diverse histories and experiences can create opportunities for civic listening. 

Zaheer Ali is the Oral Historian at Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS), a nationally recognized urban history center founded in 1863, dedicated to preserving and encouraging the study of the history of Brooklyn, New York. As BHS’s Oral Historian, he is Project Director of “Voices of Generations: Investigating Brooklyn’s Cultural Identity,” a project funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) to digitize, process, catalog, and make accessible online nearly 500 interviews that are part of ten oral history collections; and director of “Voices of Crown Heights,” an oral history-based exploration of the past and present of the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights. Additionally, he co-hosts and co-produces Flatbush+Main, BHS’s monthly podcast dedicated to Brooklyn’s multi-layered histories and dynamic present.

INFORMATION: For more information, please email Amy Starecheski at aas39@columbia.edu.

THIS EVENT IS FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. REFRESHMENTS WILL BE SERVED.

NO REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED, BUT RSVPS ON THE EVENT FACEBOOK PAGE ARE APPRECIATED TO GAUGE ATTENDANCE.