As Juneteenth was approved as an official federal holiday this week, NYC did its best to honor Black culture as it renamed 16 park spaces, including four in the Bronx.
The newly named spaces represent educators, civil rights leaders, pioneers in the LGBTQ+ community, novelists, playwrights, abolitionists and more.
On June 16, Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver was joined by State Senator Jose Serrano, Assembly Member Amanda Septimo, Council Member Vanessa Gibson and former Council Member and daughter of the late Reverend T. Wendell Foster, Helen Diane Foster, to officially celebrate the renaming of 16 park spaces.
— Hon. Vanessa L. Gibson, MPA (She, Her, Hers) (@Vanessalgibson) June 17, 2021
Honoring a commitment made in November to rename Mullaly Park and Recreation Center, the event was held at the park to showcase its planned new name for Rev. Wendell Foster. The site will officially be renamed in September 2022 in accordance with Parks policy of naming three years posthumous.
“We are happy that the tireless work and commitment of our husband, father and grandfather, Rev. T. Wendell Foster, is being recognized and celebrated with the renaming of Mullaly Park after him,”Foster said. “The Bronx and Highbridge was his home for over 55 years when he passed away at age 95 and he fought for this community up until his last days. We are thankful to the Mayor, NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver and of course, our family friend, Councilmember Vanessa Gibson, for ensuring that this renaming would happen. We look forward to celebrating at the renaming ceremony with his family, his church members, his community and all that loved him.”
Dr. Wendell Foster was the first Black NYC Councilman and beloved in the south Bronx. In March a candlelight vigil was held calling for the park to be renamed Reverend Wendell Foster Park and now the prayers have been answered.
Foster served on the Council from 1978 to 2001, was a civil rights advocate, involved with New York CORE (Congress of Racial Equality), marched alongside the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights activists on the Selma to Montgomery March and was a founding pastor at Christ Church on 860 Forest Avenue for over 42 years.
The other Bronx parks that were renamed are:
St. Mary’s Amphitheater now Gil Scott-Heron Amphitheater
Gil Scott-Heron was a pioneering soul and jazz poet, musician and author. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School and the Fieldston School. The renamed amphitheater along with the plaza, pathways and lighting in this area of St. Mary’s Park is being renovated through the Anchor Parks Initiative and the project is slated for completion in the fall.
West Bronx Recreation Center now Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) Recreation Center
Born Stokeley Carmichael, Kwame Ture, graduated from the Bronx High School of Science, was a prominent activist and organizer during the civil rights era and leader in the Black Power movement.
Morris Garden is now Mabel Hampton Garden
Mabel Hampton was a prominent lesbian activist and dancer during the Harlem Renaissance. She was also a philanthropist and lived with her long-time partner Lillian Foster for decades on 169th Street.