Meals as Collective Memory, in Partnership with Weeksville Heritage Center


As part of the Mayor’s Grant for Cultural Impact administered through the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, the Commission partnered with Weeksville Heritage Center on a project focusing on collecting stories of Black community spaces and Black-owned businesses in the face of gentrification and neighborhood change. The effort, Meals as Collective Memory, documented the social and culinary history behind Black-owned restaurants in central Brooklyn.

Through this project, the Commission celebrated Central Brooklyn’s food culture, which itself is representative of the African diaspora. The partnership created opportunities to collect and document histories, elevate local business, share delicious food, and build connections between local government resources and Black-owned restaurants and entrepreneurs in Brooklyn. This initiative culminated in the Commission’s first-ever Juneteenth Community Festival which honored the rich history of Black activism in Brooklyn and beyond.

Read the press release on the grant and partnership.

Community members join for an Oral History Listening Party.

A Conversation on Food and Place with food writers Nikita Richardson and Ligaya Mishan.

Chef Cheryl Smith and Historian Tonya Hopkins lead a discussion at our Meals as Collective Memory Community Dinner.

Current and future Black entrepreneurs join for an evening of professional community capacity building with Black-Owned Brooklyn.

A performance by Asase Yaa (Mother Earth) at our Juneteenth Community Festival.


Listen to the interviews with Black restauranteurs in central Brooklyn below

Cheryl Smith
Long time Brooklyn Resident, chef and restaurant owner Cheryl Smith shares her trajectory from being a child of Jamaican immigrants growing up in Norwalk, Connecticut to Brooklyn, New York with multiple cooking experiences in between.

Sabrina Brockman
New York native Sabrina Brockman discusses growing up in Southeast Queens as a Haitian American and moving to Bedford Stuyvesant. She also discusses meeting her husband and business partner Shawn Brockman and how they came to open their restaurant Grandchamps.

Rodney Davis
Rodney Davis discusses growing up in Far Rockaway, Queens and Brooklyn. He then discusses the inspiration of opening a pizzeria in Bedford Stuyvesant and the many trials that it took to becoming successful. He also shares musings of the neighborhood and the effects of gentrification.

Alfonso Wright
Alfonso discusses his initial career in retail and how his childhood passion for tea led him and his fiancée to opening a tea shop in Central Brooklyn.

You can find the full interviews here.

Download the Meals as Collective Memory Zine: A Brooklyn Guide of Black Owned Eats

Learn more about the Weeksville Heritage Center

The Weeksville Heritage Center is a multidisciplinary museum dedicated to preserving the history of the 19th century African American community of Weeksville, Brooklyn - one of America’s many free black communities.

Weeksville’s mission is to document, preserve and interpret the history of free African American communities in Weeksville, Brooklyn and beyond and to create and inspire innovative, contemporary uses of African American history through education, the arts, and civic engagement. Using a contemporary lens, they activate this unique history through the presentation of innovative, vanguard and experimental programs.

Learn more at