Inspired by 1830's fashions, this multi-layered installation is made with batik fabrics and repurposed elements, to represent the people of Seneca Village. The first four people of color to own land in 1827-1858 in what is now known as Central Park West between 82nd and 89th Streets, New York City.  Over the next 30 years, the village grew and families become intertwined and extended. 

The Mother of Seneca Village ~ Protector of The Rose

Diana Harding, along with her daughter, purchased land from Mr. Whitehead sometime between 1825 – 1827.  The census records show that her family and offspring were recorded, as well as surrounding neighbors and extended family.  It is amazing to me that either of these women, as well as The Deaconess, would even be sold land considering they were women, and not to mention the color of the skin.  It was unheard of. Mrs. Harding had seen and tasted the ravages of being enslaved.  She would have none of it for her daughter.  The musket would protect The Rose. 

I Pledge Alligence To Freedom

The Rose & The Musket

Ancestor: Mrs. Diana Harding
Model: Same Kooneeneg

Executive Creative Director: Sara Bunn
Photographer: Fabiola Jean-Louis
MUA:  Azua Echevarria

The Daughter of Seneca Village

The Rose/ I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

Elizabeth Harding, daughter of the mother who keeps the musket by her breast,  had a skin tone hue of creamy ivory and knew little of the horrors of her coming to being.  Others knew how she came to be simply by her skin tone.  However, loved and cared for by her mother who protected her with every ounce of her being and her trusted musket. This daughter of Seneca would thrive, marry and lead an emancipated life – the life her mother never knew until her own emancipation from slavery.

Elizabeth would later marry Obadaiah McCollin who eventually purchased two lots of his own. He is a cook and he too will purchase land in Seneca and call it home. 
Ancestor: The Daughter, Miss Elizabeth Harding
Model: Sumer Rayne

Executive Creative Director: Sara Bunn
Photographer: Fabiola Jean-Louis
MUA:  Azua Echevarria

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

The Deaconess of Seneca Village

Keeper of The Keys & The Book of Deeds

Nancy Morris purchased land on behalf of the AME church for burial grounds, a children’s school, and a safe haven for cultural kinship
where community members had the freedom to engage in their authentic motherland rituals.

Buried years later in the precious AME Zion graveyard, Nancy Morris, “The Deaconess” purchased land in 1827, just two years after the young Mr. Williams.  Ms. Morris may have been a cook, or domestic by day, and an activist through the church.  Her daughter would continue to ownershipe of the land until 1857.  Even though the daughter had married, she like several other women in the community retained the land in their own names.  Rare.  Proving the tenacity of a great people and defying the notion that they were vagabonds or drifters living in shanties. 
Ancestor: The Deaconess, Ms. Nancy Morris
Stewella Daville 

Executive Creative Director: Sara Bunn
Photographer: Fabiola Jean-Louis
MUA:  Azua Echevarria

The BootBlack of Seneca Village


Mr. Andrew Williams, a 25 year old bootblack or boot-shiner was the first free African American man to purchase land in New York City in 1825.  Charging anywhere from 3 – 5 cents a shine, he worked hard, saved his earnings and purchased three lots of (Central Park) land for $125.00 from a white cartman by the name of John Whitehead.  A cartman could have been a driver of a horse-drawn vehicle for transporting goods. A modern day van driver.  A carter typically drove a light two-wheeled carriage or, sometimes someone who drove horse-drawn trams was called a Cartman.  It was unheard of for African Americans to be able to purchase land.  However, for whatever reason, Mr. Whitehead was willing to sell it not only to Mr. Williams, but also to the many that would follow.  In no time, Mr. Whitehead sold off his farm acreage.   

1855-56 found Mr. Williams in court being offered $3,500 for his land which was worth more than $4,000.  He rejected the lower offer and settled his claim for his land by using the rights afforded under the law of imminent domain to reclaim the land.  

Shining shoes was an important source of income for many children and families throughout the world. Some shoe-shiners offered extra services, such as shoe repairs and general tailoring. Many well-known and high-profile people started their working life as shoe-shiners, including singers and presidents.

Ancestor: The BootBlack, Mr. Andrew William
Model: Merson Narcisse 
Executive Creative Director: Sara Bunn
Photographer: Fabiola Jean-Louis
MUA:  Azua Echevarria

The Abolitionists of Seneca Village ~ Valient Nights

By day the village was bustling with farm life, children studying in the basement of the church, fishing in the nearby pond and walks to the waterhole.  At night, and by cover of darkness, the town’s abolitionists would gather to help the cause of freedom for all by Underground Railroad or by any means necessary.  Keeping aware of the latest abuses, the community did all they could to remain safe holding town meetings and making the community aware of the horrors of the slave catchers, and other ills of the world outside that was  against them.  Little did they know they would soon lose the community they so loved.
Executive Creative Director: Sara Bunn
Photographer: Fabiola Jean-Louis
MUA:  Azua Echevarria
Model/ Ancestor: Stewella Daville as Ms. Nancy Morris; Merson Narcisse as Mr. Andrew William; Same Kooneeneg as Mrs. Diana Harding; Sumer Rayne as Miss Elizabeth Harding.

We Wore More Than Shackles Exhibitions: A Day In The Life Of Seneca

The title of this piece speaks to fashion as emporwerment and the crafting of a self-Identity during a time when one's identity could be taken away or denied.
In 2016, this installation  exhibited at the Morris Jumel Mansion on Sugar Hill in Harlem, New York, USA.
In 2017, this installation was featured at Spencer Museum in Lawrence, Kansas, for the  exhibition "Narratives Of The Soul/ And Still We Rise; Race, and Visual Conversations" in conjunction with the Cincinnati Museum Center, the Women of Color  Network and the First Annual National African American Quilters Convention.
 In 2018, this installation will be traveling to Vermont and Ohio as well as be on exhibit for the Annual Anyone Can Fly Foundation's Annual Distinguished Artists & Scholars Lifetime Achievement Award Ceremony in June.