Southern Boulevard

guate

The Central American Independence Day Parade is being held tomorrow in Southern Boulevard/Crotona Park and is well worth attending. The best-represented nations at the parade are Honduras and Guatemala. El Salvador and Panama have their own festivities on different dates in Hempstead and Brooklyn, respectively. The heart of the parade, however, belongs to the Garifuna people. Descended from the Ibibio people of present-day Southeastern Nigeria who escaped from shipwrecked slave ships who married indigenous Carib people, the Garifuna successfully resisted slavery until they were deported by the British from the island of St. Vincent. The British separated Garifuna by their racial features, taking the ones who looked more African to the island of Roatan, Honduras. From there, the Garifuna moved to the coasts of Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. Many worked on ships and found their way to inner cities of the United States, settling in the South Bronx, Brownsville and East New York, South Central Los Angeles, Houston and New Orleans.

Wales Avenue

wales

Wales and Tinton Avenues are named for the Morris family, who were originally from Wales, once an independent nation and part of the United Kingdom for centuries. Immigrating from Wales to Barbados, the Morris family became owners of much of the South Bronx and what is now known as Morristown, New Jersey. Tinton Avenue is named for Tintern Abbey, a famous Welsh ruin and inspiration for a poem by Wiliam Wordsworth. If you are looking for Morris dancing around here, instead of English people dancing around a pole with strings, you’ll find residents getting down to salsa, bachata and cumbia because the blocks of Wales and Tinton have been home to Hispanic residents for decades.

PS: I was hoping the Welsh equivalent of “bodega” was a very Welsh multisyllabic word like Llanfair. It isn’t. It’s Selar.

 

Bathgate Avenue

juniorzl

One of four murals recently painted in memory of Lesandro ‘Junior’ Guzman-Feliz. A plant in a plastic vase stands at the base of this mural with a handwritten note reading ‘I can’t get out of my head what they did to you.’ Indeed, who can?
I teach ninth and tenth graders at a Bronx high school. Some are from Junior’s neighborhood. Some look like him. Some are in the NYPD Explorers, the same organization he was in. (This mural shows Junior in Explorer uniform.) I feel like Junior could have been one of my students. Condolences to his family and friends and to all who feel sorrow and anger at his loss.

Wheeler Avenue

hawadiallo

Guinean food on Wheeler Avenue: rice, milk (or maybe the sweet dessert known as thiakry) and a stew left to your imagination. On the Amadou Diallo memorial mural painted by Hawa Diallo, a refugee originally from Mauritania who blossomed as an artist while working as a caretaker.

Sugar City Bakery

White Plains Road is one of the few places in America where you can experience the culture of Lesser Antilles islands like Antigua, Barbuda, Montserrat, and Nevis. Churches large and small, bakeries, shipping companies and cricket clubs all populate this area. Somewhere in the middle of the Olinville neighborhood stood the Sugar City Bakery. Named for Basseterre, the largest city on the island of St. Kitts, this cafe, and adjacent banquet hall were signs of the Kittian community. If you want even more Caribbean variety take the 2 and 5 trains from the Northeast Bronx down to Harlem, Crown Heights, and Flatbush.

sugarcity

Mother Walls AME Zion Church

MotherWalls

What connections does this Bronx church on Home Avenue have to strong African-American women and Central European nationalism? In the late 19th century, immigrants poured into the United States including many from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Austria-Hungary was a large, diverse empire in which a variety of languages were spoken.  Many Hungarian-language speakers wanted to separate from Austria and form their own country including revolutionary Lajos Kossuth, namesake of Kossuth Avenue near Montefiore Hospital.  Many Hungarians immigrated to the United States, finding employment working in blue-collar jobs.  In 1923, a New York Times reporter wrote “The Magyars add 80,000 to the city’s host. Their settlements are strong from the east side from Harlem down and there is a large number of them below Bronx Park.” One of the places where Hungarians worshiped was the Free Magyar Reform Church, built in 1909. (I have a feeling that its architecture was influenced by Hungarian vernacular design.) Members of the church would celebrate Hungary gaining independence after World War I.

walls2

Eventually, the unique building was sold to the African Methodist Episcopal Zion denomination, which had begun with a church in Lower Manhattan in 1800. I am unsure of the church’s original name, but it was renamed for Dorothy L. Jordan Walls.  Born in 1936, Ms. Walls was secretary for AMEZ Bishop William J. Walls before she married the 74-year old church leader at the age of 25 in 1956.  Unfortunately, Mother Walls had no children.  Her husband passed away in 1975 and she had an untimely death two years later.  Presumably, the church was renamed for her at this time, although an AMEZ summer camp in North Carolina was named for her in 1958. One of Bishop Walls achievements was saving and later restoring the house and farm of Harriet Tubman in Auburn, New York.  The heroine of the Underground Railroad lived in this upstate town and had built a nursing home for African-Americans on site.