There is a great lesson to be learned from the story of Weeksville, a historic neighborhood in what is now Crown Heights that was home to one of the country’s first free black communities.
Founded by longshoreman James Weeks in 1838, Weeksville, at its height, had about 500 residents. It had its own businesses, schools and churches, and even a newspaper.
Despite fading away with Brooklyn’s eventual development, the spirit and history of Weeksville survive today in the form of the Weeksville Heritage Center, a cultural and arts institution that also preserves the four forgotten Hunterfly Road houses.
Weeksville Heritage Center is a gem and vital community center in central Brooklyn, and has been for decades.
But it’s at risk of shuttering due to long-term funding struggles. Earlier this month, the leaders of the museum launched an online fundraising campaign to save Weeksville from closure.
The response from supporters was massive. Thousands of contributors donated more than $260,000, which will give the museum enough time to plan for its foreseeable future.
Part of that solution needs to be sustained city funding. Weeksville wants to join the Department of Cultural Affairs’ Cultural Institutions Group, a move supported by the group’s other five Brooklyn members.
As supporters have noted, the borough has no institution of color in the CIG. That needs to change.
While city officials have noted that they support Weeksville’s administration and maintenance needs –– including $378,000 for program funding in the last fiscal year –– the museum deserves to have regular funding every year.
Otherwise, an important part of Brooklyn and New York City history could be lost forever.