Recovering New York’s Entangled Dutch, Native American, and African Histories: An Interview with Jennifer Tosch
By Andrea Mosterman
The tour, which she describes as “a pilgrimage,” addresses the difficult histories of slavery practiced by the region’s Dutch descendants. In 2017, Jennifer and her colleagues of the Mapping Slavery Project, a public history project based in the Netherlands that focuses on the Dutch history of slavery, published Dutch New York Histories: Connecting African, Native America and Slavery Heritage, a collection of New York sites that in some way are linked to the interconnected histories of the area’s Dutch, Indigenous, and African American peoples. The tour and publication highlight many important New York City sites. I talked to Jennifer about the tour, the book, and her motivations to start this project.
Counter to the neoliberal tautology that gentrification is inevitable — a claim that justifies all manner of violence against vulnerable urban communities — Stein argues that there indeed is an alternative to land value planning and capitalist land markets. Shining through Stein’s history of imperialist expansion, mass displacements and enclosure, and bipartisan commitment to prioritizing real estate profits over people are stories of tenants, workers, and radical planners who successfully fought back against the commodification of urban space. Hilary Wilson — PhD student in Geography at the CUNY Graduate Center — recently interviewed Stein to learn more about his motivations for writing the book and the social, political, and economic struggles that have constituted the real estate state.
John Garvey is a Brooklyn native and lifelong New York City resident. During the 1970s, he was a leading activist in the Taxi Rank & File Coalition, a group of radical cab drivers determined to fight their bosses and a union leadership they perceived as corrupt and ineffective. Later in life, John worked as an educator in New York City jails and headed the Teacher Academy and Collaborative Programs at the City University of New York, where, among other things, he was instrumental in establishing the CUNY Prep program, which offers out-of-school youth a pathway to college. He is an editor of Insurgent Notes, of Hard Crackers: Chronicles of Everyday Life, and was an editor of Race Traitor, a journal that published between 1993 and 2005 whose motto was “treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity.”
This interview, conducted by Gotham's Andy Battle, has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Today on Gotham, Minju Bae interviews Diane Wong, co-curator of Homeward Bound: Global Intimacies in Converging Chinatowns, a recently-concluded exhibition at Pearl River Mart. Homeward Bound displayed photographs from thirteen Chinatowns around the world. These photographs came from the curators’ personal projects to learn from the people who have built homes, families, and communities in a global diaspora. The exhibit will travel to a number of other locations starting in the spring of next year.
Diane, we first met at the thirtieth-anniversary gala for CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities. Over the years, we have discussed our related projects and aligned political frameworks, often while sharing food. What are the origins of this exhibition?
The exhibit was inspired by the Homeward Bound series I did with the W.O.W Project at Wing on Wo & Co last winter. The series of public programs was done in collaboration with Mei Lum, founding director of the W.O.W. Project, and Huiying B. Chan, a multimedia storyteller whom I met through the Chinatown Art Brigade. It featured stories of migration, displacement, and everyday resilience in Chinatowns around the world including Lima, Havana, Johannesburg, Guangzhou, Ho Chi Minh City, Sydney, Singapore, New York, San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles, Vancouver, and Seattle. The exhibit builds from the series and uses photographs and oral histories from our own academic research to honor, preserve, and build on the histories and contemporary issues of Chinatowns through community-led and curated narratives of residents. There is a lot of work to be done when it comes to connecting our academic scholarship to what is happening on the ground in communities and to more intimate spaces like our homes. This exhibit was a way for me to be creative and to redefine what I have been taught about academic knowledge production and rigor — and to produce work that is accountable and responsive to the demands of the communities I write about.
What was your journey to working on the interpretation of Lenape history at the museum?
I have a background in Native American studies and Art History from Vassar College where I helped curate an exhibition of Inuit prints and drawings at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center in 2014, and wrote my thesis on the legacy of female Pueblo pottery artists at the Santa Fe Indian Market from 1920 to today. I joined the staff of the FAO Schwarz Education Center at the Museum of the City of New York in 2015. With my Native Studies background I was immediately excited by the opportunity to teach about local Native culture and I have spent the past three and a half years working closely with my colleagues to improve and deepen the Native American programming that we teach here at the Museum.
By Nick Juravich
However, as Dawson and Joe discussed in their Labor Online interview, by charting this “movement of movements,” The Defiant reveals the interconnectedness of struggles that are often studied separately. It also shows how diverse movements and actions are, in many ways, “expressions of protest against the same thing — crass greed that is destroying people’s lives and undercutting democracy.” The same is true when we tighten the frame. One of the joys of this book, for me, was connecting the dots not just across the country, but between diverse forms of organizing in New York City.
With all that in mind, I thought I’d start by walking through the three “New York moments” in the book, and then ask Dawson to reflect on some of the larger questions that arise when we look closely at protest in post-liberal Gotham.
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