[Editor’s Note]: Andromeda Turre served as Vice-Chair of the IDEA Committee (Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Advisory Committee) in Bedford in 2021 and Chair in 2022, the group that spearheaded the creation of a community-built quilt to commemorate Juneteenth in 2022. I asked Andromeda to write about the experience from her own personal perspective, and tell us what the project means to her.
For a full list of Juneteenth events taking place in Westchester and Rockland throughout the month of June, visit artsw.org/juneteenth.
While it is commonly believed that enslavement only happened in the south, New York City, was the epicenter of slavery in the North. It ranked second in the business of slavery nationally. The Wall Street slave market was built with the help of enslaved Africans, and some of the earliest insurance companies in America insured enslavers against the loss, damage or death of their enslaved Africans. When slavery ended in the NY metropolitan area, it freed about 25% of the population. Of course, slavery was present right here in Westchester County as well.
As the federal recognition of Juneteenth as a holiday in 2021 was announced, it prompted communities across the United States to explore meaningful ways to commemorate the day.
In the Town of Bedford, where I reside, our IDEA Committee had already embarked on a research project to examine the town’s Black history, which included its history of enslavement. Our research yielded the names of twenty-two Africans who were enslaved in Bedford, and over 80 more who were documented but not by name. As I organized the Town of Bedford’s first Juneteenth celebration that year, we included a moment of silence during which I read the names of 22 formerly enslaved African residents of Bedford, along with acknowledgement of the 80 unnamed enslaved residents. This powerful moment spurred many community members to express a desire to do more.
The following year, Caramoor generously hosted and partnered with the Town of Bedford for an extraordinary Juneteenth celebration. As chair of the IDEA Committee, doing more for the formerly enslaved residents of Bedford was always in the back of my mind as we organized the event. Together with Adina Williams, Caramoor’s Director of School Programs and Community Engagement, the idea for a community quilt was born, allowing us, on June 19, 2022, to collectively interweave our history with the present day. Juneteenth participants of all ages created their own square for the quilt using fabric, collage and marker design.
Made possible through grant funding from ArtsWestchester, the project was spearheaded by quilt artist Annette Nash-Govan with support from members of Antioch Baptist Church’s quilting and sewing ministry.
After the Juneteenth celebration, Nash-Govan assembled the squares, which were crafted by the community members, and quilted them together. Included were the 22 known names of formerly enslaved African residents of Bedford. With the support of Bedford Town Supervisor Ellen Calves, the completed quilt, entitled It Takes a Village, was hung in the entrance of Bedford Town Hall, where it is accessible to all members of the public.
I personally invite anyone who visits the Town Hall to reflect on the labor, knowledge and skills that the formerly enslaved residents of Bedford forcibly contributed to the town and its inhabitants and consider the fullness of life that they were denied.
It Takes a Village is a symbol of solidarity among today’s residents as we work towards creating a more equitable future and reconciling the painful legacy of the past. If you’re in the area, please come visit Town Hall at 321 Bedford Road in Bedford Hills to see the quilt on display until the end of 2023, after which, it will be relocated to the permanent collection at Antioch Baptist Church.
I am proud to work alongside town board member Stephanie McCaine along with the countywide Juneteenth coalition to plan this year’s event. As we begin preparations for Juneteenth 2023, the Town of Bedford is delighted to host the countywide kick-off celebration, which will be held on June 1st at the Bedford Hills Community House. As we plan this event, we continue to grow this tradition of honoring the past, celebrating the present and aspiring towards the future.