On May 18, 2015 a commemorative monument, in the form of a bench, will be installed in Memorial Park in Nyack honoring Underground Railroad conductor Cynthia Hesdra. Toni Morrison, the Nobel Prize winning author and Grand View-on-Hudson resident will attend the dedication ceremony in Nyack.
May 18 Schedule of events:
- 2:30p (doors open at 2:00p)A multimedia presentation in the Nyack Center describing the backstory of the other 14 benches, so that our community can learn about the national and global context of this initiative. Musical performances include Sam Waymon, Nyack High School Chamber Orchestra and Chorale. Toni Morrison Society – Dr. Carolyn Denard, President, Toni Morrison Society and Dr. Lori Martin will discuss the Bench by the Road Society and the life of Cynthia Hesdra, respectively.
- 3:30p Participants will form a process, led by the Nyack College Gospel choir. Nyack High School student will carry hello umbrella in the manner of the African Maafa ritual (pronounced Me aapha) that commemorates the traumatic legacy of African slavery, the diaspora and the middle passage.
- 4:15p The procession arrives for a dedication ceremony in the upper level of Memorial Park, being met by a drum circle and the Nyack High School Jazz Band.
The location where the bench will be unveiled is Memorial Park near the section of Piermont Avenue renamed Cynthia Hesdra Way, overlooking a parcel of land owned by Hesdra at the point where the Nyack Brook meets the Hudson River.
Nyack will be the 15th Bench by the Road location around the globe.
Other sites include:
- Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, site of Fort Moultrie, the embarkation point of nearly 75% of the slaves who entered America in the 18th and 19th centuries.
- Oberlin, Ohio, a community active in the clandestine resistance to slavery called the Underground Railroad.
- Fort-de-France, Martinique in honor of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Aimé Césaire.
- Walden Massachusetts: The Walden Woods “Bench by the Road” project honors former slave and Revolutionary War hero Brister Freeman, along Henry David Thoreau’s Path.
The Nyack bench is being sponsored by the Nyack Commemoration Committee. The Nyack Commemoration Commitee was created by a resolution adopted at the April 10, 2014 meeting of the Village of Nyack Board of Trustees.
Recent articles describing the Nyack Bench Project:
Nyack Sketch Log: Scholar Puts Local History on Global Map: NyackNewsAndViews, 2/10/15
Bench to honor Hesdra, Underground Railroad Activist, USA Today, 11/19/14
Nyack Sketch Log: Toni Morrison’s Bench by the Road, NyackNewsAndViews, 11/18/14
Nyack Village Board Creates Committee to Commemorate African American History, NyackNewsAndViews, 5/1/14
Nyack Sketch Log: The Underground Railroad, NyackNewsAndViews, 5/15/12