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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 1, 2010
Contact: Melinda Hunt 212-260-7156
E-mail: hartisland@aol.com

 

***** News Release *****

SPEAKERS FOR THE DEAD
 New York Poets to Read Names of Those Recently Buried in Potter’s Field on Mother’s Day

Flushing, NY – On Sunday May 9, 2010, New York poets will gather at the historic Flushing Meeting House to read the names of people who died in our City between 1980-2008 and were located through the Hart Island Project digital database. Each poet with read a page of names from a ledger book followed by a poem of their choice.

The list of poets who will read include: Grace Beniquez, Ira Cohen, Louise Landes-Levi, Jo Anne Meekins, Louis Reyes Rivera, Ilka Scobie, Jackie Sheeler, Abraham Stubenhaus, Stacy Szymaszek, and Steve Turtell.  The event is free and open to the public; donations welcome.

“How the other half dies is indicative of how the other lives. The inequalities of life extend into how we handle our dead,” stated Melinda Hunt, founder of The Hart Island Project, which seeks to uncover the secrets of the City’s public burial ground on Long Island Sound. “Through the powerful voices of prominent poets, we hope to make an invisible 101 acres and one-tenth of the population visible.”

The event is jointly hosted by Flushing Monthly Meeting and Bowne House Historical Society who share a long history of supporting freedom of conscience dating back to 1657. This event represents the first time the names of the dead have been publically read aloud since graveside religious services on Hart Island ended in 1958. The public is no longer permitted to visit actual gravesites on Hart Island.

Copies of the burial ledgers were obtained through Freedom of Information Law by the Hart Island Project in 2008. Beginning in 2009, volunteers from around the country have been entering data of 65,000 people who died 1980-2008. An on-line database is now available to the public.

The NYC Department of Correction manages the public burial ground and maintains the records. Prison labor is used to bury and disinter those who are unidentified or unclaimed as well as many infants. Public access to Hart Island is limited to people who can somehow prove that their relative is buried on Hart Island. Death certificates often lack information regarding public burials. Prior to the recent FOIL request, burial records were stored exclusively on Hart Island.  More information: http://hartisland.net/wwwebs.

WHAT:          Mother’s Day Reading of Those Recently Buried in Potter’s Field by New York Poets.

WHEN:         Sunday, May 9, 2010 (Mother’s Day) from 2-4 PM.

WHERE:       Flushing Friends Meeting House, 137-16 Northern Blvd. Flushing, New York 11354.

WHO:            Grace Beniquez, Ira Cohen, Louise Landes-Levi, Jo Anne Meekins, Louis Reyes Rivera, Ilka Scobie, Jackie Sheeler, Abraham Stubenhaus, Stacy Szymaszek, and Steve Turtell. 

Photos available upon request.  

Funding provided by the Canada Council for the Arts: Artists and Community Collaboration Program for Integrated Arts with fiscal sponsorship through the New York Foundation for the Arts. Organized by Rosalind Maya Lama, Melinda Hunt, Lewis H. Latimer House, Bowne House Historical Society and Flushing Friends.

 

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