Created By: Columbia University
A memory walk is not an endeavor in tourism or even fieldwork; it is a meditative experiment meant to arouse social consciousness by witnessing the evolution of a memory site with one’s own eyes.
This memory walk directs our gaze through history to spotlight stories of political struggle and inequality that risk being engulfed by the evolution of time and contemporary housing politics reshaping neighborhoods in New York. Our intersectional lens seeks to bring to light conflicts not only over race but also class, gender, and sexuality, all of which have defined the communities and arts of Harlem.
As we walk through Harlem, the challenges of memory quickly become apparent: many of the sites whose stories this walk tells no longer exist. And so, we invite you not only to consider questions of intersectionality-- contestations over race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, and nationality combine to create overlapping oppressions-- within the historical events themselves. We also ask you to consider how the politics of urban space and gentrification affect the construction, preservation, and transmission of memory in the present.
Throughout the walk, you will encounter a variety of literary and media artifacts-- homemade scrapbook pages, antiquated newspaper articles, job listings, poems, short story excerpts, political speeches, and more-- that aim to inspire meaningful connections to human rights struggles across histories and cultures.
As you walk, we invite you to think critically about your own identity in relation to the neighborhood. Whose memory are we mapping? We offer this memory walk as a way to cross paths between the memories that we bring with us and the memories that we are building together in every step we take through the streets of Harlem. This is a learning process that does not end in Harlem, but that starts here. For us, this is the beginning of new transnational memories, an opening to new paths for collaboration.
This memory walk was conceived in 2015 and revised in 2019 as a joint project by six graduate students from Columbia University and New York University in Women Mobilizing Memory, a transnational feminist working group of faculty, students, and activists at the Center for the Study of Social Difference. For more information, please consult our recently anthology, which covers the origin of our memory walk projects and more.