Oral History

Meals As Collective Memory


The 1940s saw a rise in the migration of Blacks from the American South and Caribbean to Central Brooklyn, soon becoming a large part of the identity of those neighborhoods.

The food we eat and where we eat it are integral parts of cultural identity. Meals as Collective Memory, an oral history project powered by Weeksville Heritage Center (WHC) in partnership with NYC Commission On Human Rights, seeks to capture the memory-making utility of food and document both the social and culinary history behind Black-owned restaurants in Central Brooklyn.

We are now living in a time when the pursuit of ‘authentic’ experiences and spaces has accelerated the process of gentrification. Through the collection of oral history interviews from long time Black restaurateurs and the owners of burgeoning neighborhood staples, and the sponsorship of supporting programming, WHC will show that authenticity is the cultural right to stay put.

Through Meals As Collective Memory, we will celebrate and explore Brooklyn’s food culture from across the African diaspora. In addition, we will promote the kind of self-reliance that made historic Weeksville a model community by providing workshops to assist community members in starting or expanding their own food businesses.

We invite community members, food and culture enthusiasts, and local entrepreneurs to join us in learning about the history of the meals we consume and the restaurateurs behind them.


Meals as Collective Memory: A Listening Party on Black-Owned Restaurants

Sat, May 11, 2019

1:00 PM – 2:30 PM

When you think of home what is the first meal that comes to mind?

What smells inspire nostalgia of your favorite memories?

Weeksville Heritage Center in partnership with New York City Commission on Human Rights invites you to Meals as Collective Memory: Using The Senses As Memory. We will be convening for an afternoon of deep listening and conversation on Black-owned restaurants in the community. In this session, participants will hear oral history selections centered on aspirational restaurateurs and chefs collected by Weeksville Heritage Center. 

These oral history clips chronicle the experiences that inspired the narrators to open their own restaurants and their journey through the culinary world. Featured restaurants include Lakou Cafe, Pikliz, Island, and more.

Guided by these clips, participants will explore, through intergenerational dialogue, their memories related to food and its cultural significance in their lives. All ages are welcome.

The event will feature catering from Lakou Cafe in Crown Heights.


Meals as Collective Memory: A Conversation on Food and Place

Sat, May 11, 2019

3:00 PM to 4:30 PM

The impact of gentrification in Brooklyn’s changing neighborhoods has been widely discussed as it pertains to housing, transportation, and jobs. But what about its impact on what reaches our communities’ plates?

Join us on May 11th as food writers  Nikita Richardson and Ligaya Mishan unpack the topic of “food gentrification” and what it means for Central Brooklyn in a conversation moderated by Prof. Sharon Zukin.

This event is a part of Meals As Collective Memory,  an oral history project powered by Weeksville Heritage Center (WHC) in partnership with NYC Commission On Human Rights that celebrate and explore Brooklyn’s food culture from across the African diaspora. In addition, Meals as Collective Memory promotes the kind of self-reliance that made historic Weeksville a model community by providing workshops to assist residents in starting or expanding their own food businesses.


UJAMAA: Black Entrepreneur Workshop

Wed, May 15, 2019

7:00 PM – 9:00 PM 

For many, Kwanzaa is a week-long meditation to spiritually prep for the year to come. For us here at Weeksville Heritage Center, these seven principles guide us through everything we do year round. In the spirit of Ujamaa, Meals as Collective Memory is built upon the urgency of cooperative economics.

We're excited to announce that Black Owned Brooklyn, whose mission is rooted in ujamaa, has teamed us with us to host an evening of professional community capacity building for current and aspiring Black business owners. Skillshares and peer mentorship are proven methods for continuous personal/professional growth and we are glad to be able to provide our space for this work.

Join us as we discuss with other restaurateurs how to start or expand your business while in Brooklyn and look to create networks that will help ensure its success.


Meals as Collective Memory: A Workshop On Securing Your Small Business

Wed, May 22, 2019

6:30 PM – 9:00 PM

Black entrepreneurs were the foundation upon which the free Black intentional community of Weeksville was built.

Weeksville Heritage Center, in collaboration with the NYC Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), has launched Meals As Collective Memory to document the oral history of Black-owned restaurants and continue this tradition of self-sufficiency and communal support within the Central Brooklyn and beyond.

Businesses that use the resources made available by the New York City Department of Small Business Services (SBS) are able to increase their visibility, capacity and contribute to the city’s economy by unlocking your economic potential and creating economic security. If you are a business owner and would like to learn more about SBS, their services, and how they can benefit your business, this is the course for you!

Also, come and learn more about your rights and obligations, in the workplace, under the New York City Human Rights Law. The New York City Human Rights Law is one of the most comprehensive civil rights laws in the nation. The Law prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations based on race, color, religion/creed, age, national origin, alienage or citizenship status, gender (including sexual harassment), gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, pregnancy, marital status, and partnership status. Interns, whether paid or not, are considered employees under the Law. In addition, the Law affords protection against discrimination in employment based on unemployment status, arrest or conviction record, credit history, caregiver status, and status as a victim of domestic violence, stalking, and sex offense. The City Human Rights Law also prohibits retaliation.

IMG_3442 (1).JPG

Meals as Collective Memory Community Dinner

Wed, May 29, 2019

7:00 PM – 8:30 PM

When we get to talking about culture, community, and home, the subject of food is never too far away.

Weeksville Heritage Center, through Meals as Collective Memory is seeking to document Black owned restaurants in a time when the pursuit of ‘authentic’ experiences and spaces has accelerated the process of gentrification. For the final event of the Meals as Collective Memory series, we will explore the history and cultural development of what is seen as “authentic” Black food in the United States and how this cultural culinary incarnation came to be.

This intimate evening will feature food historian Tonya Hopkins in conversation with Chef Cheryl Smith as we fellowship over a delicious meal prepared by Smith’s restaurant Global Soul.

*Please note: Maximum capacity is 50 people, so please reserve your spot as soon as possible.

Weeksville Heritage Center presents (1).png
Summer fete.png

Meals as Collective Memory: Juneteenth Community Festival

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

6:00 PM – 9:00 PM

As the diaspora commemorates the 400th anniversary of the first African stolen and brought to this country, we invite you to join us on Weeksville’s sacred and free land for our Juneteenth Community Festival.

As our Meals As Collective Memory series comes to a close (for now), we will honor Weeksville's rich history of our liberation and asserting our right to stay put! To celebrate the culinary tradition of our ancestors’ Juneteenth meals of the past, join us for some delicious BBQ, ice cold drinks, and family fun.

Meals as Collective Memory: Summer fête

Sunday, July 28th, 2019

2:00 PM – 6:00 PM

Before we head off for a quick break, the Weeksville Heritage Center team wants to celebrate the incredible 2018-2019 season we’ve had! From the incredible exhibitions, programming, and community events, it has been a busy year at WHC. When we hit a bumpy road at the top of 2019, you stood with us, wrapped your arms around us, and raised over $250,000 to keep our doors open. We cannot thank you all enough, but figured an afternoon of food and fellowship on our lawn would be close enough!

Join us on Sunday, July 28th at 2pm for our inaugural Weeksville Summer Fete. Our day begins with chef Klancy Miller in conversation with Ardenia Brown, former owner of Bed-Stuy’s Solomon’s Porch for our final Meals as Collective Memory oral history project. We’ll then move to the lawn for sunrays, music, and tours of the historic Hunterfly Road Houses.

Delicious catering will be provided by Arcadian Pastures.

This afternoon is free to attend, but we encourage you to make donations to help us keep the good times rolling here at Weeksville!

The Office of Councilman Robert Cornegy Jr.

The Office of Councilman Robert Cornegy Jr.